Tag Archives: grandparents

I- Ipswich…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to Day 9 of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge. My theme for 2020 is Places I’ve Been and today we’ll be travelling to Ipswich, Queensland, despite the state currently being in lock-down on account of the Coronavirus.

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Map showing the road route from Brisbane to Ipswich.

Australians will be rather gobsmacked to find Ipswich lined up alongside some of the most spectacularly beautiful cities in the world. Trust me! If I’d been to Ireland or India, Ipswich wouldn’t have made the cut. However, I decided to go with Ipswich to touch on a very important reason many of us travel. That is to see the people we love. Yes, that sense of place can also be about people.

Jonathon & Qantas Pilot

Our son with the Qantas Captain at Brisbane Airport.

So, today we’re going to visit my late grandparents who I always knew as “Mama and Papa Haebich, although since my grandfather lived to the ripe old age of 95, he came to be known as “Papa Bert” to our kids. My grandparents moved to Ipswich in about 1976, when I was seven years old.

Portrait Mama & Papa

My grandparents in front of the piano. My grandmother would cover it in cards and photos for special occasions. I don’t think I ever heard my grandmother play it, although she used to play the organ for church while my grandfather preached.

What I remember most about visiting my grandparents was their incredible, almost giddy love for us, which surpassed all human understanding. Our dogs get uber-excited about going for a walk and they literally quiver with excitement. However, I’m not even sure that comes close to how our grandparents felt about seeing us…especially my grandmother!

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A Historic Postcard of Ipswich’s Main Street. 

With us living in Sydney, it was roughly a 1000 km drive to get there and I still remember the first time we drove up there in the family’s EH Holden with the unforgettable number plate “EGO”. My brother and I were sharing the back seat and almost murdering each other before we’d even passed through the toll gates on the Pacific Highway leaving Sydney.  I remember that incredible excited anticipation as we pulled into their street. My grandfather had specially bought brand new numbers for the house so we could find it. They were bright red and still there last time I looked more than 40 years later. They would’ve been keeping an eagle-eye out for our car. As soon as it appeared, they would’ve been down the stairs in a flash making the 1954 Royal tour look relatively sedate. As soon as she saw me, I would’ve been lost inside my grandmother’s arms all snuggled up inside a hug.

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My grandfather ued to draw us cartoons and post them down to us. This one shows when the infants school choir made a record and my mum was the accompanist. BTW back then I saw known as “Nina”. 

Before we move on from this very first trip to Ipswich, there was something else which also captured our attention. That was the fire engines. Their siren was quite different to what we were used to and the fire station was about a block away. So, the next morning while the big people were still asleep, my brother and I took ourselves on an excursion to the fire station. It was so much fun, and then Dad suddenly appeared out of nowhere. We weren’t really in trouble as such, I suspect because he had a few walkabouts of his own as a kid and he understood the need.

When I was older, I used to catch the McCafferty’s bus up to see my grandparents in my school holidays. Much to my mother’s annoyance, I did a lot of baking while I was there and she was trying to get both my grandmother and I to lose weight. However, she was over 1000 km away, and out of reach. My grandparents especially picked and froze mulberries from their tree, so I could make my not so world famous mulberry pie when I came. Of course, being the forbidden fruit made every scrumptious mouthful so much better. In addition to the cooking, we also used to catch the train into Brisbane to go shopping. I still remember when the then Premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, introduced these flash new silver, single-storey trains, which my grandparents simply called: “Joh’s trains”. Joh could do no wrong, and was up there alongside the saints, until he slipped up. That was painful!

My grandparents lived in what’s known as a Queenslander house. This is essentially a historic rather ornate timber home, which is built up on pillars to maximize air-flow to cool the place down. This provides a massive and much cooler space under the house, which could provide added living space. However, in my grandparents’ case, it was an Aladdin’s cave of stashed treasures, including a functional laundry copper, which was still there when we sold the house about ten years ago. (I still get sad and have a deep sense of loss about all the stuff that was thrown out!!)

In more recent times, Queensland’s most infamous politician hails from Ipswich. Pauline Hansen famously used to have a fish & chips shop there, and has been canonized for her catch cry: “Please explain.”

Above – The Workshops Rail Museum has a nipper’s playground section for the kids. It’s sensational!!

Meanwhile, the arrival of our son on the scene, brought fresh meaning and a brand new destination on our trips to Ipswich. When he was about 2 years old, we took him to the Workshops Rail Museum for the first time. We’d flown up to Ipswich to celebrate my grandfather’s 70th year of ordination as a Pastor in the Lutheran Church. While mum was busy with preparations back at the house, my Dad and I decided to take Mister for a quick visit to the trains, and we’d planned to return the next day for a longer visit. However, you try explaining that to a two year old who’s just discovered Nirvana?!!! He wouldn’t budge. He threw a whopper of a tantrum, and the guy operating the model train exhibit and was well versed in dealing with disappointed kiddies, kindly turned it off so we could get him out. My Dad pick him up and held him under his arm, kicking and screaming blue murder all the way out to the car . He clearly wasn’t taking “NO!!!” for an answer and after going to a gazillion parenting courses, I knew the only way forward was to wait until Vesuvius subsided and his rational mind started to kicked back in. That was our only hope of ever getting him back into his car seat and buckled in. However, who was I kidding? This toddler couldn’t read, but he’d sure as hell absorbed my favourite motivation quote:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

― Calvin Coolidge

Well, this kid had it covered. He was sitting in the driver’s seat and refusing to move. We rang my mum and warned her we could be back late and that her much beloved grandson was holding things up. Of course, this didn’t go down well. I don’t know how many head honchos from the Church were going to be at the celebration, but mum needed the car to get the cake out there and the stress levels back at the house were also at fever-pitch. I have no idea how we managed to get that car moving.

Papa Bert 70th ordination

My grandfather, Pastor Bert Haebich, at his 70th Ordination in 2007.

However, all’s well that ends well apparently. We all managed to get out there. The afternoon went without a hitch. AND (drum roll) we were all smiles for the cameras. Happy families!

Jonathon teaching Papa Bert to read

As is often the case when grandparents live a distance away, we’ve barely been back since my grandfather passed away in 2009. We’ve visited friends and gone back to the Workshops Museum, but it’s been too long and that’s not going to change for awhile now. I am exceptionally grateful for that and the strict measures the governments have put in place. We’ve had a good reduction in the number of new cases and Australians who are bunkered can actually feel quite safe, and also a huge sense of gratitude to our front line workers who are keeping us alive. Thank you very much!

Amelia & Jonathon piano 2010

Have you ever been to Ipswich? Or, perhaps there’s a place which is made special to you because of the people living there, which you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you. 

Best wishes,

Rowena

Papa & Mama Haebich

 

The Great Divide…Grandparents & our Little People During Lock Down.

 

“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.”

– Aldous Huxley

There are so many ways our communities are being hit hard by the coronavirus. While the massive loss of life and the incredible suffering experienced by those hardest hit by the virus, along with those who’ve lost work and are facing financial ruin, there’s also that massive impact on relationships due to enforced social isolation. For many, their greatest struggle is being cut off from the people they love more than life itself….their grandchildren.

Papa Bert 95

Celebrating my grandfather’s 95th birthday. It was the last time we saw him and he passed away a month or so later.

While searching for a photo of my grandparents’ home in Ipswich for my travel series, I came across a string of photos of my kids with my late grandfather, which vividly capture the intimacy of their relationship, and how they really helped my grandfather come out of his shell and sparkle in ways that were truly miraculous.

With the elderly being at the highest risk of catching the virus and having the worst possible outcome, and kids being a good potential source of transmission; physical contact has been put on hold. Stopped. We’ve all been told in no uncertain terms to “stay home”.

Jonathon teaching Papa Bert to read

However, as much as it’s for grandparents’ own good in terms of their physical health, being kept away from their grandchildren and the love, joy and energy they bring, is also having a potentially damaging impact on their mental and cognitive health.  No doubt families are very concerned about the risk of regression. Whether the door between remembering and forgetting will shut during this time of social isolation is over and stay shut. That there will be no turning back.

Amelia Papa Bert Wheelchair

I get that.Yet, with no alternative, we can only hope that nursing homes are finding ways of keeping these connections alive when it’s difficult for families.

When my grandmother went into the nursing home, the staff worked with her and my aunt to make a special memory book. There was nothing wrong with her memory, but she’d had a series of crippling mini strokes and had lost the capacity to speak (which was utterly cruel when she was already immobile and spent hours connecting with family via the phone.) This book traced from when she was born and her parents and siblings right through school, getting married, family life, work and grandchildren. From a practical point of view, the book was a brilliant memory jogger, and it also enabled staff to connect with her in a personal way when family weren’t around. They could get to know her. These days, however, this book is a precious time capsule…her life story.

This is something families could put together at home and drop off for their loved ones. I’m sure it would help. Clearly name everybody in the photos and use large print. Keep it simple. Add drawings from the kids etc. Make it special.

Jonathon laptop papa bert

Meanwhile, I also want to share a very special visit our family had with my grandfather, Papa Bert. This was early in 2007 and not long after Christmas when we gave our then three year old son a Fisher Price laptop for Christmas. It was a very simple device and the mouse was actually designed to look like a mouse. That’s quite important for the story because when our son was teaching Papa Bert how to use his laptop, he told hi to put his hand on the mouse, and he did following the instructions to a T. This was the very same man who’d rejected the high-tech electric typewriter he’d received for his 80th birthday and stubbornly persisted with his manual typewriter which must’ve come from the ark. This bright, animated computer user, was also a far cry from the man who slept through Santa’s visit to the nursing home and wasn’t even responding much to family members any more. However, his blue-eyes were sparkling and you can see the connection between my 93 year old grandfather and my three year old son as clear as day.

I don’t want us to forget that ever!!!

Papa Bert & Jonathon 2004

Papa Bert meeting our son for the first time at his 90th birthday party. Hard to believe there was 90 years between them.

The middle-people can often get in the way of the very old and the very young, but there is so much love and the benefits to their well-being go far beyond words.

Please keep holding onto that and finding ways of connecting through these extraordinary times and don’t let go.

cupcake box Pymble

The remains of the cupcakes we sent my parents. Mum sent this photo back with the box positioned in front of some photos of us. 

I also need to consider my own parents in all of this. They’re now in their mid-70’s and considered “elderly”, although they’re in denial and it doesn’t make much sense to me either. Not that I’m one to throw stones. I’m  grappling to get my head around 40 and last year I turned 50 and it’s getting harder and harder to keep treating these milestone birthdays as another 21st!! We did manage to leave a box of home-made cupcakes on their doorstep through the week, when Geoff was down in Sydney for work. They did us all a world of good. Mum rang up sounding much more animated and that physical expression of love meant a lot.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to connect with our teenage daughter. I’m hoping the chocolate caramel slice might work. She’s been spending lock down in her room chatting with friends, and taking the dogs for an extended daily walk. That said, I am getting a lot of writing done. So, there’s a lot to be said for independence.

Zac at the beach

Of course, the absolute winners of this coronacrisis in our family are the dogs. They not only have four ball and stick throwers at home, they’ve also been going for extended walks. They’re grinning from ear to ear just as long as it’s not their turn to be left behind!!!

Are you currently cut off from your grandchildren? Or, perhaps your kids are being separated from their grandparents? How are you keeping in touch? I’m thinking of you and would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Elizabeth Bay, Sydney – Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors.

As an Australian in a country with relatively modern architecture, it’s all too easy to feel a sense of inferiority when you’re trying to find even one interesting door to stand tall and proud alongside its foreign rivals. However, after a trip to Elizabeth Bay on Sydney Harbour, I’ve come through with the goods. Indeed, upon reflection, you could say that the doors of Elizabeth Bay know how to make an entrance.

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Hayes Theatre

This trip to Elizabeth Bay wasn’t a purpose-built Doorscursion. Rather, I went over to check out the block of flats my grandparents lived in when they first got married… Caversham Court at 25 Billyard Avenue, a street back from the harbour and across the road from one of Sydney’s most expensive and prestigious homes, Boomerang. I also wanted to simply walk around the area and get a feel for where they lived as well. The plethora of stunning doors was an unexpected bonus.

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Elizabeth Bay Cafe on Greenknowe Ave

This doorscursion starts walking down Greenknowe Ave,  past the Elizabeth Bay Cafe. I’d spotted the magnificent red doors at Kelburn Hall from the bus and was salivating like a dog glaring through a butcher shop window. Even before I’d discovered Thursday Doors, unlocking the door into an entire community of door enthusiasts, I couldn’t walk past a red door without taking a photo and wishing it was mine.

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Quite an entrance!A stunning red double door complete with Ionic columns.

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By the way, although the linear progression of these photos creates a sense of direction, it’s an illusion. Rather, I was completely lost and struggling to connect what I’d seen on Google maps with what I was experiencing on the ground. You see, I’d been looking at Elizabeth Bay from the harbour, where I’d arrived via Kings Cross from behind. While for many this wouldn’t pose a problem, and they’d automatically re calibrate their inner compass, this doesn’t happen for me and I couldn’t orientate myself, which is a fancy way of saying, I was lost. Moreover, I didn’t have a map. While that wouldn’t be a problem for the modern babe,  I’m more of a hard copy girl. Indeed, my sense of direction is so bad, that I need to hold that piece of paper in my hands and turn it round to face the direction I’m going, even if it is”upside down”. Only then, do I have a snowflakes chance in an Australian summer, of finding my way to my intended destination. Indeed, that’s why I’m often left to muse over John Lennon’s words of wisdom:

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

 

Above: My apologies for the leaning columns of Scotforth. I tend to take photos at a slight angle, which look really obvious in photos with such strong lines.

Just to add to my overall state of lostness, my phone hadn’t charged the night before and was as flat as a tack. I not only had no access to Google maps, but I also had no access to my husband. Yes, as embarrassing as it is to admit, I have been known to ring him at work in a serious state of panicked distress when I’ve had no other hope of reaching my intended destination. Talk about humiliating, especially when I’m struggling to ay where I am!

Anyway, I’ve already confessed all in a previous post. No need to rehash!

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After a bit of assistance, I’m now heading down Ithaca Road and soon spot the harbour peeking through the huge touring Moreton Bay fig trees leaning over the road. Phew! Billyard Avenue is on the left and I soon spot Caversham Court. It’s rather distinctive.

Caversham Court

Caversham Court, 25 Billyard Ave, Elizabeth Bay.

Caversham Foyer

Front Doors, Caversham Court.

Of course, I was looking forward to photographing the front door for Thursday Doors. However, what I couldn’t see on Google Earth, was that the front foyers and the block of flats next door are currently being renovated and my shot of the front door would be obscured by scaffolding. I guess that provides something a bit different for Thursday Doors.

By the way, my grandparents kept good company in Billyard Avenue. One of Sydney’s most prestigious and expensive mansions, Boomerang, is just across the road. Of course, I had no chance of ever getting inside there, although I did manage to photograph the front door and also around the corner, the “Trademen’s Entrance”. Naturally, I was rather chuffed with these finds.

Around the corner, I wandered into Beare Park, which is right on the waterfront at Elizabeth Bay with views across to Island. That’s where I spotted this garage door:

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A lock up garage with harbour views stood out among the flats.

If you are interested in going for a walk in the area, you might like to consult The Map.

Lastly, I thought I’d leave you with a photo of a much more humble door found on Ithaca Road:

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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

PS: I wasn’t the only one who was lost and having trouble finding Billyard Avenue.

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I hope Zozo the gender unspecified cat found its way home.

 

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.

Mopeds Billyard Ave

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

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

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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.

Gardenia

A Gardenia photographed outside Caversham Court

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

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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

Finally, My Favourite Dead Artist…A-Z Challenge.

After traveling through the alphabet with the likes of Botticelli, Munch, Da Vinci and immersing myself in such incredible paintings as Christina’s World, The Scream, Picasso’s Dove of Peace, I had to finish the series off with a tribute to my very favourite dead artist…my grandfather or “Papa” who used to draw my brother and I little cartoons, which he’s stick in with a letter or card. As a kid, they were magic and they still are.

My grandparents always lived inter-state and back in those days, letter writing was a very regular thing along with the weekly phone call. My grandparents always had two telephones in my time, and there would be one on each phone so neither of them would miss out on a single word from us. In hindsight, it was truly amazing growing up knowing they loved me that much. Indeed, my grandmother said to me once, that she didn’t even care if I wrote her letters on toilet paper. So often, particularly during my teenage years, their love held me together as the swirling vortex of pubescence engulfed me in waves of angst. Family was their world and they had so much love to give. That’s particular true of most grandparents who are freed up from the demands of parenting just to love and be loved and my parents are carrying this forward.

Anyway, this is a tribute to my grandfather and his little drawings.

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Out watering the veggie patch with my grandfather. He used to grow beans, which fascinated me as well as fresh corn. Don’t you love his orange terry toweling hat!

Life was much simpler back in the 70s and 80s. My grandparents used to post me a $5.00 note for my birthday and quite often there might be a washer or something simple in there as well. Or, perhaps that was in the Christmas parcel, which came wrapped very simply in brown paper and string, both most likely “recycled”. My grandfather’s motto was “waste not, want not”, which never made any sense to me. If I didn’t want it, I didn’t care. Indeed, it was more a case of: “Good Riddance!” Another one of his sayings was: “Die Gänse gehen uberall barfuss ” or “The geese go barefoot everywhere”. I was most surprised when I finally made it to Germany in my twenties, that most of the Germans had never heard this phrase before. Even Google was rather stumped but did come up with this:

Geese go barefoot and ducks wear red shoes

The drawing I’ve posted was drawn in 1976 when I was 6 years old and our school choir was making a record. This was a very big deal back then. My nickname as a child was “Nina and my mother was the accompanist. I particularly love the little record player he’s drawn down the front doing the recording. However, that’s not the only dinosaur in the picture. The piano is almost a dinosaur these days as well.

Above: The Kids and I outside Haebich’s Cottage in Hahndorf where my Great Grandfather was born and died. Top right… Haebich’s Smithy by Hans Heysen. The Haebich’s owned the blacksmith’s shop on Main Street, Hahndorf and it was depicted by three highly esteemed Aus tralian artists.

The other interesting thing about my grandfather, was that he was born and raised in Hahndorf, a German-Australian village in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia and he was full of crazy stories about the place, which I always listened to with baited breath. This town was populated with real characters and he real brought them and the place to life.

Papa Bert Rowena Wedding

My grandfather and I taken in 2001 at our wedding, where he gave the blessing. he also gave a speech at the reception where he brought up my teenage dream of being Australia’s first female Prime Minister, a position stilll available at the time. I was so embarrassed at the time, but I came to appreciate how proud he was of me and just for being myself (as long as I studied hard!!).

That was until his memory started to fade. The stories stopped, and tragically Alzheimer’s moved in and forced him out. He was about 90 by then and reached the grand age of 95. I sometimes wonder whether his brain just ran out from over-use or whether it was just bad luck. I guess when you’re over 90, the odds are that Alzheimer’s is gunna get you. It’s unfortunately, a much too common end of a brilliant life.

So, this officially marks the end of my A-Z Series: Letters to Dead Artists. This train has terminated. All out. All change.

Many thanks for joining me and my crazy crew of artists for the journey.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Festival of Instrumental Music, Sydney Opera House.

On Monday night, our daughter performed in the Combined String Ensemble at the Festival of Instrumental Music 2016 at Sydney Opera House.While a professional music critic might discuss the repertoire or wax lyrically about the wonders of Public Education, this is a parent’s perspective…the views of Mum-on-seat.

As soon as every parent entered the Main Concert Hall at the Sydney Opera House, they had one thought on their minds…spotting their little darling. This was no easy task either given the sea of recorder players. I don’t know how many recorder players there were but it might have been a thousand. Maybe even two. To make matters worse for parents unable to find their own, there were enthusiastic waves and smiles from kids who’d spotted their loved ones…just to make you feel even worse….a sense of desperate loss…where are they?

In desperate scenes reminiscent of losing your child at the Sydney Easter Show in the huge, amorphous throng, the poor usher was being inundated by anxious parents: “I can’t find my child.” I was surprised the stage wasn’t swarming with cops, detectives and sniffer dogs hunting these kids down, so these kids would finally give their xparents a wave and put them out of their misery.

Well, when it came to finding our daughter, we couldn’t even find her instrument. We were surrounded by recorder players on all fronts, but could only spot much older students with strings and they weren’t wearing the T-shirt. Miss had really outsmarted me and the camera this time and taken 250 string players with her. Now, this really was looking like a case for the Police.

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The Combined String Ensemble.

Well, it turned out that the Combined String Ensemble was a featured performance and they’d come out onto the stage during the second half. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see our daughter at all but we at least saw some violins and had a close-up view of the cellos and double-bass. I wasn’t expecting to see her, but it would’ve been fabulous.

After all, we went through this last year when she performed at School Spectacular. She was but a speck in the huge multi-school choir and we had to watch the TV coverage on slow-mo to even catch a glimpse.

By the way, if you’re a parent, grandparent or some other form of child taxi driver, have you ever stopped to consider what you’ve learned along the way and how through being this supposedly passive background person, you’ve also been  inevitably extended in some way?

Five years ago, I took up the violin to help our daughter get started. She stopped but I kept going and she only came back to it at the start of this year and has worked pretty hard to get herself Opera House ready.

However, that wasn’t all. As I’ve sat in the audience watching her and other students perform at the Sydney Town Hall, School Spectacular at the Sydney Entertainment Centre,  now the Sydney Opera House and even at the local school, I am being embraced by all that music. I am hearing instruments I’d never think of going to see and my awareness, understanding and love of music has grown exponentially. I have started going to more concerts and have been taking my kids, sowing all kinds of seeds. Seeds, which may not germinate or bear fruit today or tomorrow, but one day, note will follow note…either as a player or equally important, as audience.

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Moreover, music touches our souls in ways so far beyond words and expression. We can leap for joy or perhaps find solace in a more sensitive, reflective piece. It can also unlock and release our inner junk and garbage, like releasing the minotaur out of the labyrinth

After all, music was never meant to be a chore…even if we do need to practice, practice, practice to find our way to the Opera House.

It is meant to set us free.

And to think this journey all started out, simply by driving Mum’s taxi.

xx Rowena

Waffling About Perfection.

How long has it taken me to actually use my waffle machine for its intended purpose and actually make waffles?

I’m not telling. This is a blog, NOT a confessional!

While I’ve crushed, fried and crunchified boiled potatoes in the waffle iron before, I’ve NEVER ever made a waffle. Yet, tonight I finally walked the plank, jumped over the edge and straight into the raging waves only to find absolute calm…still waters!

The waffles worked. Were delicious! I succeeded!

So why have I put it off for so long?

Of course, you know why. You know the crazy reason why. I’ve been too scared. Scared I’d make a mistake and botch them up.

That’s right. I’ve been yet another a paralyzed perfectionist.

How about you? Are you also guilty as charged?

There’s nothing more annoying than a perfectionist who isn’t perfect…especially when it’s yourself!

Perfectionism is a sneaky, cunning beast. It doesn’t knock on your front door and announce its arrival. It doesn’t have flashing neon lights with ringing sirens either. Instead, it silently sneaks in through the back door and creeps up on you from behind and grabs you by the throat.

It also gets you busy. In the case of the waffles, it threw a bamboozling array of recipes at me, followed by a plethora of different waffle irons and that was before we’d even considered toppings. By this stage, there so  many rats going round and round in spinning wheels inside my head, for me to do anything.

Although it might be cliched, paralysis by analysis is real. Too many cogs spinning all at once and your exhausted, over-worked brain is blowing a gasket. Boom! Bang! Crash!

So, as I said, I made waffles for the first time tonight and they were great. Covered in creamy vanilla ice cream and maple syrup dripping off the fork…So yum!

Why on earth did I put it off for so long?

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The Lutheran Church in Wollongong put this recipe book together in the aftermath of WWII. Having members from a multitude of European countries, some being enemies at home, the idea of the cookbook was to bring people together and sharing recipes is a great way to start.

We didn’t have a waffle machine growing up at home. Even though I ended up using my grandmother’s recipe to make our waffles tonight, she’d never made them for me either. I found the recipe in a Church cookbook she’d edited back in the 1950s. Of course, all the measurements were in “ancient” and had to be translated. I also wondered whether I really did have to separate the eggs, or whether I should use a simpler recipe, which just throws the ingredients together? I chose the complicated path, hoping for fluffier waffles and I used my egg beater as well. It’s also ancient.

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As I was saying, we didn’t have a waffle machine growing up and I have to admit that making the waffles, was like magic. The batter looked just like pancake mix and I admit that as I spread it over the waffle iron, I doubted it could actually make a waffle and I had that child-like sense of wonder, when I opened up the machine, and found the sculptured waffles cooking inside.

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Abracadabra!…Waffles!

I’m proud of my waffles. Not just because they were good, but also because in tackling that challenge, I crossed a new frontier…just like an explorer crossing a mountain for the very first time. I did it. I actually extended my wings and allowed myself to leave my cage and truly soar.

While making waffles might only be a small step for woman and nowhere near actually landing on the moon, all these steps add up and could ultimately build a ladder. You never know.

So, in case you want to follow in my esteemed footsteps, here’s Grandma’s Waffle Recipe:

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My Grandmother’s Waffle Recipe taken from the “Around the World With Cooking” Cookbook.

Grandma’s Waffle Recipe

250g Plain Flour

Pinch salt

1 teas Baking Powder

1 generous cup of milk and a splash (270 mls)

2 eggs, separated.

50g melted butter.

Directions

  1. Start preparing the batter about an hour before required.
  2. Take eggs out of the fridge 30 mins beforehand and at room temperature.
  3. Sift flour & salt into a basin. Make a well in the centre.
  4. Separate eggs and put the whites aside.
  5. Beat egg yolks and add hald the milk. Pour into the flour and mix into a smooth batter, gradually stirring in the rest of the milk.
  6. Beat mixture and allow to stand for an hour.
  7. 15 minutes before the mix is ready to cook, beat egg whites until stiff. Put aside.
  8. Once the hour is up, add the melted butter to the mixture and then stiffly beaten egg whites and baking powder.
  9. Spray waffle iron with oil or butter and have it hot to make the waffles.

Enjoy!

By the way, just to encourage you and humble myself a little further, when I went to reheat my cup of tea in the microwave, I found the melted butter for the waffle mix in there. That’s right. I’d left it out. This could explain why the waffles weren’t quite as crunchy as expected, but I’d instinctively added butter to the machine for the second batch.

Have you ever made waffles? How does your recipe compare to mine and do you have any tips and topping suggestions to share?

I look forward to hearing from you!

xx Rowena

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My Grandparents.

Grandma’s Featherbed…#WeeklySmile

Back in the 60’s, Spike Milligan described our areas as “the largest above ground cemetery in the world”. Ouch! Not exactly the most positive feedback. However, there are some benefits to being the place where folks retire before moving onto the pearly gates for that final port of call. Aside from having loads of living treasures to talk with, our local opportunity or charity shops have a stead stream of antique and vintage treasures at very reasonable prices…which, I must admit, seem to add up when you buy in bulk like someone I know…

So, I’ve decided to share a wonderful find I had this week…twin paisley eiderdowns (Quilts) dating back to the 1940s/50s in beautiful condition. They arrived in the shop while I was there, and literally walked straight out. I had no idea what they were worth but I wanted them because I had an eiderdown just like it as a child, which came from my grandparents’ place and I felt like I could roll myself up on it and think about my grandparents and their rambling old house overflowing with uncles, aunts and us kids. We did wicked things like swinging from my grandparents’ Hills Hoist clothes line and there were at least 10 of us on there. Needless to say, the whole thing snapped and we run for the hills.

Isn’t is amazing how an object can trigger those memories almost as effectively as a time machine?!! Moreover, as someone who does have their pyjama and doona days, there’s something about wrapping yourself up in a fluffy feather quilt that is so comforting…just like chicken soup for the soul!

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John Denver & The Muppets.

Indeed, perhaps some of you remember John Denver’s: Grandma’s Featherbed:

Grandma’s Featherbed

When I was a little bitty boy
Just up off-a floor
We used to go down to Grandma’s house
Every month end or so
We had chicken pie and country ham
And homemade butter on the bread
But the best darn thing about Grandma’s house
Was her great big feather bed
It was nine feet high and six feet wide
Soft as a downy chick
It was made from the feathers of forty ‘leven geese
Took a whole bolt of cloth for the tick
It’d hold eight kids, four hound dogs
And a piggy we stole from the shed
We didn’t get much sleep but we had a lot of fun
On Grandma’s feather bed

John Denver

Being a Muppets fan, I also can’t go passed this version of the song, where John Denver sang it on the show: John Denver & The Muppets Sing

If you are looking for a few more smiles, Florence Henderson and The Muppets were great too: Happy Together

After all, you can’t have too many smiles!

What’s made you smile lately?

xx Rowena

Dogs of the World Unite!

Back by popular demand, it’s Bilbo and Lady, AKA “The Dogs”.

Every dog has its day and letter “D” on the Blogging A-Z Challenge is ours. Welcome to our universe. Of course, once we heard about the A-Z Blogging Challenge, we weren’t about to be overlooked, neglected or omitted…especially when we’ve been banished outside at the grandparents’ place at Palm Beach over the Easter break.

Hardly a postcard perspective: a wet Easter in Sydney as Autumn sets in.

Hardly a postcard perspective: a wet Easter in Sydney as Autumn sets in.

Just to fill you in, it’s raining. Indeed, it’s been bucketing down and there are also fierce winds which would make the French Mistral look restrained. Although we’re out of the rain on our bed with a blanket, this is no compensation for being inside with the family, even though we’ve been told to make the most of the view. It might be worth millions but so is being with the ones you love instead of being shut out.

You might recall that Bilbo wrote extensively about the Golden Rule and how important it is to treat others as you would like to be treated. So I ask you, how would you like to left outside in the rain instead of being snuggled up with your family by the heater? It’s not much fun, is it?

Moreover, we’re sure you can appreciate that for inside dogs like us, there’s no greater insult  than being shut outside. Far from just being locked out of the house, we’re shut away from our family, love, warmth, pats and above all else, a sense of belonging and being an integral part of the pack. This all means death to a dog.

Lady being quite the "dog hog" taking up both the huge woolen blanket and dog bed, leaving Bilbo shivering on the door mat before I intervened. I'm sure many blokes who've lost the doona mid-winter would say: "typical woman". I do think Lady also tries to live up to her name and sometimes even Bilbo is treated like the "Tramp".

Lady being quite the “dog hog” taking up both the huge woolen blanket and dog bed, leaving Bilbo shivering on the door mat before Mum intervened. I’m sure many blokes who’ve lost the doona mid-winter would say: “typical woman”. I do think Lady also tries to live up to her name and sometimes even Bilbo is treated like the “Tramp”.

What have we done wrong? What is our crime? Being a dog? Just because we were born dogs instead of human, does that mean that we are somehow inferior? Or, were all living things created equal?

Grandparents certainly don’t seem to think so! Not only to they put the kids on some kind of ridiculous pedestal which bears no reflection on their actual behaviour but they also elevate other despicable creatures to lofty, undeserved heights.

I don’t know whether you’ve had much to do with grandparents but they’re funny creatures. They talk about healthy eating but then fill the kids full of lollies and sent them home twitching full of sugar and all sorts of toxic chemicals. They cry poor and then spend buckets on the kids. Grandma has been bringing Bilbo ham scraps all his life and might tolerate a bit of interaction but there’s a real “us and them” approach and why they dote so much on those naughty grandchildren when we’re so well behaved, I’ll never know. In a way, it’s easy just to write them off and say they’re just not dog people. However, once we found out that they batted for the other side, we decided to fight back and stand up for Liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Text displayed on a placard announcing the sale of biens nationaux (1793).

Text displayed on a placard announcing the sale of biens nationaux (1793).

You see, it’s not just that they’re not dog people. They’re actually cat people. We are part of the family yet we’re banished outside peering longingly through the glass, while they all sit around the table and chat. Moreover, as soon as that wretched cat from the across the road even alights on the driveway,they bend over backwards contorting themselves to lure in that wretched fleabag.

That freeloading cat on its way to Grandma's house. Where's the big bad wolf when you need him?!!

That freeloading cat on its way to Grandma’s house. Where’s the big bad wolf when you need him?!!

Cat being cat, it’s so aloof and standoffish and completely lacking in canine warmth and affection. “Puss! Puss! Puss!” They all coax and then there’s  inevitably the ultimate of betrayals when the kids even join in: “Mama! Mama! The cat’s here!! I need some food for the cat” There’s absolutely no support for us. No calls of: “Mama! Papa! Please let the dogs stay inside!!” Grandparents always cave in to the grandchildren. Everyone knows that the little people cast some kind of spell over their grandparents and they can do not wrong. In the process., they somehow wrap their grandparents around their little fingers and manipulate them like puppets and they can’t say no. We know that if those kids pestered long and hard enough, we’d not only be allowed inside but we’d even be sleeping on the lounge!

However, we’ve had no such luck. The kids just keep playing with the cat.

Should read: "No Humans" and definitely "No Cats"!!

Should read: “No Humans” and definitely “No Cats”!!

Sadly, this kind of inequality isn’t just confined to the grandparents. We live in an unjust world. We might not be able to read but we’re not stupid. Dogs aren’t allowed on most beaches. We’re not allowed to catch the bus or the train either. As much as the humans might say it’s a dog’s life, we’re the ones stuck on the leash.

What makes humans think they’re so good? Haven’t they been hell bent on destroying our beautiful planet? They’re certainly NOT the custodians they were always intended to be. We dogs might leave a few smelly piles around for silly humans who can’t even breathe without texting to step in. Otherwise, we walk very lightly on the planet. Unless the humans dress us up like Christmas trees, we’re content to wear the coat God gave and we don’t need superfluous clothes, shoes or all sorts of bling. We’re quite happy with a simple abode although I must admit we’re rather partial to a drive in the car. I guess our carbon footprint isn’t quite so neutral after all.

Yet, we still come out way ahead of the humans!!

All these observations suggest to us that is instead of neutering dogs and keeping us on the leash, that perhaps the rest of the animal kingdom should unite and reverse the order of things. Put the humans on a leash before they blow up the planet and leave the rest of us homeless or even obliterated.

Lady chatting with Max online.

Lady conferring with Max online.

Of course, we can be benevolent to some humans just like they’re partial to some dogs but the hour has come. We have decided to harness the power of the world wide web and we’ve been conferring with comrades all around the world. So much for romance, Lady and Max the Dog were plotting revolution and nothing less. Yes, those gorgeous puppy dog eyes can be very deceiving!!

We get by with a bit of help from our friends and here are some of our canine comrades:

Max the Dog: https://withinthekstreets.wordpress.com/

Monika and Sam the therapy dog: Tails Around the Ranch: https://tailsaroundtheranch.wordpress.com/

Rachel Mankowitz: https://rachelmankowitz.wordpress.com/

Geoff Lepard touring Dulwich Street Art with his dog: http://geofflepard.com/2014/09/15/dulwich-street-art-part-one/

Clowie’s Corner: http://clowiescorner.en.1.3142.xyz/category/clowies-tales/

Doc at Mother’s Little Steps: http://motherslittlesteps.com/

Diplomatic Dog: https://diplomaticdog.wordpress.com/

Liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Dogs of the world Unite!

xx Bilbo and Lady

Sydney Town Hall…Family Concerts to Remember

Sunday night before last, our 8 year old daughter “Miss” sang in a multi-school choir at the Sydney Town Hall. Celebration Sing Out was a concert supporting the Music Therapy Unit at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney.

Celebration Sing Out, Sydney Town Hall.

Celebration Sing Out, Sydney Town Hall.

As much as we might have believed in the cause, let’s be honest. All the parents, grandparents and the rest of the royal entourage were there with only one thing in mind…to see their little darling up on stage at the Sydney Town Hall. Our brilliant, shining little stars had us all transfixed in their orbit. It might not have been the Opera House but singing at the Sydney Town Hall is still a big deal and a very imposing, impressive venue with the huge pipe organ towering overhead. When the organ was completed in 1890, it was the biggest pipe organ in the world. That’s not bad for a former convict town.

How have to admit this gig was pretty impressive and the children sang like angels as well!

How have to admit this gig was pretty impressive and the children sang like angels as well!

While our little darlings might have been just one of hundreds all not-quite perfectly cloned in plain white shirts and black pants, we didn’t care. We zoomed in and picked out little star out of the multitude and stared at them transfixed with love and pride.

Christmas came early...the kids checking out the Christmas lights in Sydney's Queen Victoria Building on the way to dinner.

Christmas came early…the kids checking out the Christmas lights in Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building on the way to dinner.

A key component of this parental pride was getting a good seat so we could not only spot our darling among the multitude but also to get a good vantage point to take photos. Unlike many public events where you are not allowed to use cameras let alone photograph or film children, this event was a paparazzi free-for-all.

While the kids and I went to check out the David Jones Christmas Windows and have dinner in Hyde Park, Geoff sat in the queue to get our seats. He had left for work at 4.30am and was happy to mind the seats. You get my drift.

Before the concert began, I was down the front and after scanning the crowd several times, eventually I spotted Miss in the jungle. Many of the kids were waving out to the crowd and getting rather excited. However, Miss didn’t respond to me at all. I was pretty hard to miss. What started out as something like a dignified, royal wave became more frenetic as she absolutely failed to respond. She didn’t smile or even blink in my direction. Not one to be ignored, I’m waving both arms by now and doing everything but screaming “cooee” above the hubbub. I decided I wasn’t going anywhere until she responded. She might have been up towards the back but I was standing right in front of her waving my arms, taking photos with the standout Nikon SLR camera (something with a real lens not one of these Mickey Mouse phone cameras). I mean… I really stood out. It was almost like I was standing there with two heads and still she refused to acknowledge my existence. Eventually, finally, at a point no doubt verging on terminal embarrassment, she waved back. Relief! She later told me that she’s not supposed to wave. You see, at 8 years of age, she’s already the consummate stage professional!

Naturally, I wasn’t the only paparazzi in sight. As I scanned around the audience, there was an array of camera phones sticking up above the audience like the sort of TV antennas you see in regional towns desperately trying to pick up the city stations.

The singing was absolutely beautiful and a real tribute to everyone involved. The children sang beautifully in unison and sat still for considerable periods on stage during other performances. The concert began at 7.00PM concluding at 9.30 which is well past many of their bedtimes and yet they were the consummate performers…real little professionals.

While this performance was mostly about our daughter, there was also a ghost in the room…my grandmother.

Hard to believe my grandmother was ever a 15 year old schoolgirl. She, on the other hand, didn't recognise the old lady staring back at her in the mirror. I now understand what she meant!

Hard to believe my grandmother was ever a 15 year old schoolgirl. She, on the other hand, didn’t recognise the old lady staring back at her in the mirror. I now understand what she meant!

A review of my grandmother's Concert at the Sydney Town Hall SMH April 10 1935

My grandmother’s Performance at the Sydney Town Hall 6th April, 1935 SMH April 10 1935

My grandmother, Eunice Gardiner, was an internationally successful concert pianist, music critic and piano teacher at the Sydney Conservatorium. Eunice was taking up a 2 year scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London. A fundraising committee had been formed to raise funds towards her living expenses in London. As part of these fundraising efforts, Eunice gave a concert at the Sydney Town Hall on the 6th June, 1935.

This is a story I grew up with and I remember my grandmother showing me her precious newspaper clippings in her seemingly ancient scrapbook. This wasn’t something we looked at often…only once or twice in my life time and indeed while working on her memoirs, she even let me take it home for awhile to scan. Talk about precious cargo. This was back in the days before the old newspapers had been uploaded onto the Internet and you couldn’t just summon up someone’s entire life history with an instant and exceptionally gratifying Google search. Of course, you could look at the old newspapers on reels at the State Library but you needed to do your research first. It was a tedious, laborious process. So these press clippings and particularly her scrap book, were incredibly precious!!

Anyway, as we arrived at Town Hall, I was no longer viewing my grandmother’s concert as an ancient black & white newspaper clipping but as a living, breathing experience. I was walking up Town Hall Steps with her parents and brother, Les. I could feel their pride bursting through my heart and saw it reflected back to me as our daughter sang up on stage, enjoying the whole experience. This was not necessarily going to be a given. Singing in front of 1000 can be daunting if not terrifying but it seems that being part of a crowd can be a good thing.

Once upon a time, when I was a little girl, I’d had my own piano performance. However, it was hardly at the Sydney Town Hall but in a hall hired by my piano teacher in Wahroonga, a Sydney suburb quite a long way from the Sydney Town Hall both in terms of kilometres and kudos. While it was a big thing for me to be performing at the concert and I had practiced pretty hard and knew my piece from memory, the fact that my grandmother was attending the concert was a big deal. I distinctly remember getting in the car and Mum asking me if I had my music. I told her that I didn’t need it…that I knew my piece from memory. I was a confident little kid and not easily intimidated. I didn’t need my music and I was going to do it my way despite my mother’s concerns.

Well, of course, I got up on stage my legs dangling from the piano seat and of course I lost my place. I remember this terrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Mum had seen it coming and I’d botched it. Plus, my grandmother was watching. I’d been to see her perform at the Sydney Opera House wearing my very best dress which she’d brought back from me from Norfolk Island and where I couldn’t cough, sneeze, go to the toilet and if you sat very, very still, you were actually permitted to breathe. My grandmother wasn’t one of those grannies who give you Freddo Frogs (https://www.cadbury.com.au/Products/Pre-teens-Confectionery/Freddo.aspx) either . She was in some sort of inter-stellar zone us mortals could only watch from the outside. I can almost feel myself stop breathing yet I persevere and tinkered with the keys until I found my place and kept going…my pride wounded but undefeated. I am so proud of that little girl who didn’t just burst into tears and exit stage left..It might not have been a perfect performance but I persevered and I conquered.

You can read my grandmother’s obituary here: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/obituaries/a-musical-career-honed-in-the-laundry-20090823-ev2w.html

Actually, perhaps the last word on that concert should go to my grandmother. When she reflected on this concert in later life, she mentioned nothing about the epic stumble during my performance. Rather, she tell me that she’d got in trouble with my Dad for disciplining my brother during the concert. That’s right. She’d got in trouble. You know I’m smiling!

Meanwhile, as the end of the year approaches, our daughter’s ballet and jazz concerts lie ahead and I’m practicing for my violin concert. Well, like our daughter I’m part of a group and there will be no solo performance. This is certainly one time I don’t want to stand out and for once in my life, just be one of the crowd.

And I’ll be taking my music!

xx Rowena

PS This is a Freddo Frog:

Introducing Australia's very own Freddo Frog.

Introducing Australia’s very own Freddo Frog.