Here’s a bit of post-Christmas entertainment for you:
Hope you enjoy. I was in stitches.
Here’s a bit of post-Christmas entertainment for you:
Hope you enjoy. I was in stitches.
Welcome back to Place I’ve Been, my theme for the 2020 Blogging From A to Z April Challenge. Today, we’ve finally reached the end of the road. Z is our last stop, and today we’re heading of to Taronga Zoo, with its magnificent views across Sydney Harbour.
Today, we’re hopping back in the time machine and switching the clock back to 2009 when we went to the zoo to celebrate our son’s 5th birthday with my parents. By the way, this isn’t the first time I’ve reflected on this very special birthday celebration and you can read about it: HERE. This was the kids’ first time to the zoo and my last, although Mum bought annual passes for herself and the kids, and a trip to the zoo became a special day out with “Mama”.
That’s where zoos become rather enchanting and it’s absolutely magical to see such a diversity of animals from right around the world almost within arm’s reach where you can almost feel part of their orbit. However, on the flip side, animals belong in the wild and deserve to be free. After all, I certainly wouldn’t want some other species to keep me in confinement for their own personal entertainment (even if I do sometimes wonder if that’s what the dogs are up to when I keep throwing the ball).
However, just to really confuse the picture, zoos have now become sanctuaries for endangered species and are running breeding programs. Animal habitats in zoos have also improved significantly over the years. I still remember seeing the orangutan’s in their previous caged enclosure at Taronga back when I was at university many years ago now, and seeing their sad eyes peering out between the gaps.
It is also possible that we idealise life in the wild. After all, it’s not free of predators, loss of habitat, food and water shortages either.
Thomas French addressed these contradictions in
“Despite all their flaws, zoos wake us up. They invite us to step outside our most basic assumptions. Offered for our contemplation, the animals remind us of nature’s impossibly varied schemes for survival, all the strategies that species rely upon for courtship and mating and protecting the young and establishing dominance and hunting for something to eat and avoiding being eaten. On a good day, zoos shake people into recognizing the manifold possibilities of existence, what it’s like to walk across the Earth, or swim in its oceans of fly above its forests—even though most animals on display will never have the chance to do any of those things again, at least not in the wild.”
I also came across this from excerpt about a lion at the zoo:
“See this abdicated beast, once king
Of them all, nibble his claws:
Not anger enough left—no, nor despair—
To break his teeth on the bars.”
So, I’m not sure where that leaves us.
Indeed, perhaps it’s a good time to offer you a piece of birthday cake, or perhaps some pavlova?
Meanwhile, I want to share an interesting story with you about the opening of the zoo back in 1916 and the challenges they faced moving the animals from their previous location at Moore Park in the city, on the other side of Sydney Harbour a good 15 years or so before the Sydney Harbour Bridge had been constructed and ferry was the only way across the harbour.
I’m not sure whether I should start a guessing competition to see which of the animals was the most difficult to relocate and why. However, it wasn’t the lions and tigers. It was Jessie the much beloved and only surviving elephant. Rather than paraphrasing, I thought I’d share the full story with you even if it does add significantly to the word count. It appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 10th November, 1911. It takes you away to another time and place, and if you’re anything like me, I’m always willing to travel.
REMOVING JESSIE. HOW IT WILL BE DONE.
THE NEW ZOO SITE. WORK. TO START IN JANUARY
The animals went in one by one – into the Sydney Zoo – but they will all go out together.
Presently they will be in the midst of packing up and moving. They are to have a new home. From Moore Park they are to go to Ashton Park, which is on the other side of the harbour.
The elephants went in one by one, and one by one they died, until today only one remains. Every Sydney child knows Jessie. She is one of the oldest inhabitants of the Zoo, having been there for 30 yoars. And the question is, How will she take this breaking up of the old home?
Jessie, the elephant, is not only the biggest animal in the Zoological Gardens, she is also the biggest problem in the way of “moving.” You can manage the monkeys and the apes, for they will do as they are told, you can open the door of the tiger’s cage, or that of the lion, and tiger or lion will walk obligingly into a portable cage, ready to be carried away; the crocodiles and the pythons present no insuperable difficulty, so long as they are handled with care. But you can’t put four tons of elephant into a cage – or, if you could, you wouldn’t be able to move the cage afterwards.
So Jessie will walk. It remains to to be seen how the airing will agree with her. She is not familiar with trams, or lorries, or motor cars. She has never paraded up and down our busy streets, and the strangeness of it all may not be to her liking. She is, however, a wonderfully good and sensible elephant, and it is not anticipated that she will give much trouble. But, in order to keep her in a good humour, she is to be given two nurses, who will walk one on either side of her – two of Wirth Brothers circus elephants if they are to be had. The only fear is lest evil communications may corrupt Jessie’s good manners, and lead to her running away to join the circus.
A START IN JANUARY
Anyway this is not to be for some time yet. The decision to move the Zoo from Moore Park to Ashton Park – that magnificent stretch of natural bush lying between Whiting Beach and Athol Gardens – has only just been arrived at; but assuming that it is gazetted without undue delay, it is hoped to make a start in preparing the new home for the denizens of the Zoo in January next – building, surveying, fencing and cleaning. First, there will be a topographical survey and then part of the area – the site to be set apart for the Zoo is 60 acres in extent, the total area of the park being 140 acres – will be fenced, probably 40 acres of it. The other 20 acres will be kept as required for zoological purposes. As soon as the surveying and cleaning of the land has been completed, the laying out of the grounds will be proceeded with. Paths will be made, and the quarters fixed for the various orders of animals: and when the money is available the buildings will be erected.
The Government intends to do all it can towards making the Zoological Gardens of Sydney not only the first in Australia, but, ultimately, one of the first institutions of this kind in the world. Indeed, no other Zoo in the world can boast such a magnificent site as this one at Ashton Park. There are zoological gardens covering a larger area – as at Bronx Park, New York – but there is none as beautiful. It is proposed to begin with an initial outlay of £20,000 or £30,000, spread over a period of four years, and this is a modest enough beginning. ‘We must cut our coat according to our cloth,” said one of the directors yesterday. “In time Government and people will come to realise what a fine asset these gardens can be made.”
The council of the Zoological Gardens is fortunate in numbering among its members two such enthusiasts as Mr Fred Flowers (Chief Secretary ) and Mr Hoyle, M L.A , both of whom have thrown themselves heart and soul into this forward movement.
The natural beauty of the site will remain. From the harbour one will see no sign of habitation. No bricks, no red tiled roofs, will mar the beauty of the bush. There will be no high buildings. Nothing will be used except the rock which is lying there. Green trees and rugged rocks will be all that will meet the eye. There will be as little fencing as possible and wherever it is feasible sunken fencing will be introduced, leaving nothing to interrupt the view. Straight lines and all formality will be tabooed. There will probably be no flower gardens – only the natural features of the ground showing the Australian bush.
It is probably that there will be a special endeavour to make the new Zoological Gardens typically Australian, with masses of beautiful wattle trees, bright-flowering eucalypts and brilliant creepers everywhere in evidence. Here we shall be given to us a piece of Australian bush under the very best conditions. The creek running through the centre of the ground will become a fern gully, with an abundance of tree ferns, staghorns, and palms. We shall have birds’ nests in plenty. Lyre birds and many other Australian species will flit from bough to bough. Large ponds will be made by blocking the creek, and the ponds will be full of our water-lilies. Upon them and around them will be a multitude of birds, foreign as well as Australian.
Another advantage in not having flower gardens will be that many of our Australian animals, such as the native bear, the opossum and rock wallabies will have the run of the whole grounds, though there will be little sanctuaries for them to go into when the grounds are unusually full of visitors.
For the housing of the carnivora, the latest system of barless cages will be adopted, as in Hagenbeck’s world-famous gardens at Hamburg, There are natural rocky enclosures in the park, and these with little difficulty, can be made into large cages – walls of rock, with moats, are aimed at the different orders of the animals will be grouped together, so as to make the whole collection valuable from an educational standpoint.
The birds will be kept in large cages, enclosing trees. Instead of having one small cage for each species, a whole family of birds will be put into one large cage – all classes of cockatoos, for instance – and they will have ample room for flying among the trees. There will also be cages where many different species of birds will be seen together.
Three years ago the Director of the Zoological Gardens, Mr Le Souef, took a trip to Eugland and Europe, and visited the principal gardens. Speaking to a “Herald” representative yesterday, he said ‘The whole point of usefulness, as far as I was concerned, centred in Hagenbeck’s Gardens in Hamburg. I consider that the style adopted there must sooner or later be copied by every zoo in the world. It is a privately owned zoo. Like his father before him, Hagenbeck has all his life been dealing with animals, and he conceived the idea of this new type of barless cage that we propose to introduce in Sydney. It completely revolutionised all previous ideas of housing animals.”
MUSIC IN THE OPEN AIR
Mr Le Soeuf makes another interesting proposal. “All the gardens of Europe contain excellent features in the accommodation provided for out-of-door life” he said. “All the music and refreshments arrangements are out of doors. For instance, in the Berlin Gardens there were two magnificent bands, around which were about ten thousand chairs and little tables. The people go in there of an afternoon or evening, and drink beer or coffee while listening to the music. There are red tables and white tables, if you sit down at a red one it signifies that you drink coffee, if at a white one it signifies that you drink beer, It saves time and trouble – your coffee or beer is brought to you at once.
“Sydney has never had an opportunity of enjoying this kind of thing, and I would like to see it introduced in connection with our new gardens. In our climate it is exactly the thing required, instead of sitting in stuffy restaurants.”
Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Friday 10 November 1911, page 8
This brings me to the zoo today which is closed due to the coronavirus just like all museums, galleries and places where the public congregate and actually have fun. However, they’ve taken Taronga online and you can check out some of the animals on Taronga TV . I’m sure many parents have appreciated having the zoo online with the family kept at home on lock down. It’s a great idea, I’m just a bit surprised they haven’t featured our Australian animals. So, just to make sure you’re not disappointed, I’ve included a link to a koala talk at the Australian Reptile Park.
Anyway, on that note, it’s time for me to hit the sack. Actually, that time’s been and gone and it’s very late.
So, this brings the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge for 2020 to an end, although I think I might continue this series. I’ve really enjoyed it.
Well, before I get much further, I should tell you it was much husband’s birthday earlier in the week and we had a wonderful lunch out together at a restaurant across from our local beach. The weather was stunning and we had such a relaxing time. Well, it would’ve been more relaxing if a group of young whippersnappers weren’t discussing their investment strategies and how much money you should leave in the pot. I was very tempted to ask them to ****up and tell them that some people actually like to enjoy life. Go out for lunch to get away from all of that. I can guarantee that when I was their age, I wasn’t discussing investment strategies. However, eventually the bright sun forced them inside and out of earshot.
By the way, my apologies on the food and beverage front today. About all I can offer you is tea, coffee, water and some great music. I’m sitting out at my desk listening to Ian Cooper: Hard Axe to Follow featuring violinist Ian Cooper, guitarist Tommy Emmanuel and Maestro Tommy Tycho. This where my story gets rather humbling, which is hardly surprising for someone who bills themselves as: “The Closet Violinist”. Even if you’re shy, if you have a modicum of talent, someone eventually drags you out of the closet into some kind of public arena. Wants to bless the world with your magic. Not so for a poor closet player. They either leave the door, shut or slam it in your face. People can be so insensitive!!
Anyway, as I said, I’m listening to Ian Cooper Ian Cooper and this piece of music is vaguely familiar and moving out of the background, until I’m wracking my brain trying to work out what it is. Indeed, I’m even glaring at the back of the cover, and still not getting any wiser. Clearly, I should’ve finished my cup of tea before I began this simple, yet apparently ambitious task. The peanut butter sandwich clearly wasn’t enough either. As it turns out, much to my embarrassment, they were playing a reinvention of Dvořák’s Humoresque . I say much to my embarrassment, because I’ve been learning this piece for over the last three months. I guess it’s a bit like when you’re introduce two close friends, and have a temporary memory lapse and can’t remember their name.
Meanwhile, the Closet Violinist is hard at work. For those of you with even a toe in the performing arts, you’ll know that the end of the year is concert season. So, I’ll actually be coming out of the closet and will be playing a duet of Danny Boy with my teacher at the end of year concert. Last week, she gave me a big tick of approval and said she’d be stoked if I played like that at the concert. Yet, I’m still working on it.
Perhaps, I shouldn’t be surprised that practicing more, produces more practice and consequent improvement. It’s so exciting to be polishing off a handful of pieces and I’ll soon be moving from the Suzuki Book 3 onto Book 4, where I start learning concertos. It struck me that even if I’m only learning concertos, that I can’t keep saying that I can’t play the violin anymore. We Aussies can be an understated bunch. So, I think I’d now describe my playing as “could be better, could be worse”. How’s that for confidence and self-esteem? To be honest, I’m just grateful when my violin doesn’t squeak or do its infamous cockatoo screech. While the violin can be such an incredibly beautiful songbird (even when I play it), it can also be so cantankerous. Yet, I must say I was encouraged recently when a newfound friend, who is an incredibly talented musician, said all musicians wrestle with their instruments. By the way, as you may be aware there are definite parallels between mastering an instrument and conducting a passionate love affair…the love, the intensity, arguments, silence and all too often a parting of ways possibly after a physical break of some description.
This weekend, however, it wasn’t my turn to shine. My daughter performed with the Dancin Mates Dance Team at a local nursing home. They did the opening number from the upcoming annual concert and they each performed their solos. It’s been awhile since my grandparents were living in nursing homes now and this is the only time I visit one these days. I’m really pleased my daughter is involved with these performances, as it’s important to try and cheer up people who might be doing it tough and bring a ray of sunshine indoors to people who may not get out all that often. Even just being themselves and wearing their dazzling costumes would be enough to brighten someone’s day but then to see them dance, is utterly magical. Some of these young people are in the process of transitioning into the professional dance world and so they weren’t just seeing people with nowhere else to go. My parents also came up to watch which was very special for us.
There have also been some challenging times over the last few weeks. My health is doing well and my endoscopy and colonoscopy haven’t picked up anything too nasty. However, I have a friend battling advanced Motor Neurone Disease and things with her have been really difficult lately. There were a couple of days where I was so angry about it and ended up finding solace on my violin, which isn’t something I’ve consciously done before. After all, as a beginner, all that screeching is hardly relaxing. I have also been listening to some violin music and that’s been very cathartic as well. I think the tone of the violin, especially when it hits the high notes, really releases the anguished or troubled cry of the soul. Any thoughts?
I did a bit of baking through the week. It started out with attempting to make a birthday cake for my husband using GF flour. I don’t know what happened because what went into the cake doesn’t resemble the recipe and then the cake didn’t rise. While I was waiting to decide its fate, the dog decided to help herself and Geoff heard the tin crash on the floor and half the cake was gone by the time he got there. Golly. These dogs are quick. Fortunately, there had been two layers. By this stage, the logical thing was to throw it out. However, I must believe in raising the dead after all. I broke the cake up and decided to do a variation of a family dessert…Chocolate In-Betweens. In the original you have chocolate mouse in between sponge fingers which have been dashed with sherry. In this version, there was chocolate cake smothered in cream, splashed with Frangelico and then covered in the chocolate mouse filling from the original cake recipe. The patient was removed to the fridge to rest. Much to our surprise, the result was incredibly scrumptious and will be the beginning of a new thing.
In terms of blogging, I’ve been a bit quiet this week and only participated in Friday Fictioneers with: The Secret
Well, on that note, I’m heading off. I hope you’ve had a great week. This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.
The time was coming, when Mavis would leave this world in much the same way she arrived… with nothing.
However, Mavis had her own ideas. If the Chinese Emperors could take their terracotta armies and the Egyptians had their slaves, Mavis was going to be buried in her lounge room in her own Empire.
“Mother, we’re going for a drive,” her daughters chimed in unison. Although they were middle-aged, Mavis always knew there was trouble whenever they palled up. There was no way they were taking her to a nursing home. She’d die first.
Then, she saw the cake. “Happy Birthday, Gran!”
This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers. PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.
Ideally, we’d all be sitting around in some sort of magical flying cafe zooming all around the world spreading around our caffeinated bliss. Instead, I’m throwing this coffee back like John Wayne in some dusty old Western.
I’m on the run.
No! Not from the cops but from my life-long nemesis…the wretched clock.
It’s Sunday night and at the stroke of midnight, the fun ends and another week begins…Tick! Tock! Tick! Tock!
You see, living in Sydney by the time you’re having your weekend coffee in America, it’s at best Sunday morning here and if I’ve had a busy day, it’s Sunday night. This means I’m far from relaxed. However, the benefit is that I sort of get the equivalent of extended shopping hours because I can still post to the linky on Monday. It’s still open for business.
At the moment, my head is still buzzing from practicing my violin and helping my daughter get through her violin practice after she’d already practiced her Baritone Horn. She also had handwriting homework after spending much of the weekend working on a fascinating project on the effects and management of a range of natural disasters. Not content to just get the kids to look at things like flood, fire, drought, the teacher set a specific location for each disaster. This made it much more interesting but also more complex. We were looking at how the monsoons in India are vital for the Indian economy on one hand but can also flood villages, leaving people homeless and prone to disease. Our bush fires in Australia not only destroy the bush but paradoxically fire is also required for some native seeds to germinated. Yes, bush fire is actually part of their life cycle. It’s also interesting to think of people living in the middle of the bush in bush fire areas, on the edge of volcanoes or on the San Andreas Fault. Why do we humans like living in these extremes?
Make that some humans.
Speaking of my children’s education stretching my rapidly declining brain cells, my son had to write a poem for school this week. It was quite an interesting topic, which might also stimulate your creative juices: “Through My Window”. It had so much scope!
Of course, I couldn’t help myself. A poem just flowed through my pen about when he was younger: Night Music about all those spooky sounds of branches scratching against his window pane at night. This was followed by: Somewhere In Between. This addressed the topic from quite a different perspective of what it’s like to be a tween. He’s about to turn 12.
I wasn’t sure how my son would go with writing his poem. It seemed like an ambitious project for any kid his age, especially as you couldn’t get away with stuff like: “roses are red, violets are blue”. I wasn’t sure about showing him my versions before he’d done his as I didn’t want to discourage him. Yet, at the same time, I thought a few examples might be helpful. After all, through the centuries the apprentice has observed the master at work and then had a go. Student artists would copy the Master’s work as an exercise in how to learn techniques. It wasn’t a crime.
Anyway, I opted for showing him because I figured he knows I’m a writer/poet and that’s my strength just like he is good at Maths (especially where no English is in involved). He’s also quite quick to point out my weaknesses.
Much to my excitement, he emerged from his room with his poem: Through My Window. I was really impressed and incredibly proud and not just because I’m his Mum either! He needed some help with layout and punctuation and meeting the teacher’s check list but he wrote it.
I know I’ve probably got this all back to front but this week we celebrated our daughter’s 10th Birthday. Yes, she’s finally reached double figures. She is among the youngest in her year at school and so she feels like she’s forever playing catch up. Unfortunately, celebrations were fairly low key so far. She was sick the day before and had the day off school but did manage to feel better for a birthday dinner at McDonald’s. She doesn’t like cake and so she had a Chocolate Bavarian as her birthday cake which I decorated with strawberries. I felt so slack but I’d also had a touch of her stomach bug and was feeling green half the day myself.
The big excitement on her birthday was receiving BB8, the droid from the latest Star Wars Movie. I wrote about him here: BB8: Welcome to Our World He operates from the iPad, which works like a touch screen remote control. Although I’m a serious technophobe, BB8 even whirled straight into my heart with his chirpy electronic bleeps and his eloquent command of the English language:
“Aggressive life forms detected”…This was the dogs.
“Debris detected”. This was the waste paper bin.
“Unidentified humanoid life forms detected”…us.
“Distress signal detected”…BB8’s head had fallen off.
I am still in the process of putting together a slide show of her first 10 years but while gathering photos, strayed across this letter I wrote to Big Brother about the impending arrival of his Little Sister in three days time. I was stoked to find it.
So, it’s been a big week.
Somehow, I also managed to head over to Carrot Ranch. for their weekly flash fiction challenge. You have to write 99 words on the set topic…no more, no less. This week’s topic was: Diversity.
I am quite intrigued with cultural diversity in ourselves. After all, so many of us is a mix of different ethnic groups. In Mirror! Mirror! I wrote about an Australian Indigenous woman who’d been told she had Indian heritage as a child to conceal her heritage. She was also told to stay out of the sun to, in effect, “stay white”. This wasn’t so much fiction but what friends have told me. However, I did come up with the idea of her tracing her features in the mirror…something we all do. I sometimes look in the mirror and see my Great Grandmother staring back at me as I get older.
Well, for so much for having Coffee to Go tonight. I’ve certainly been chatting for quite awhile. However, if you speak to my kids, they’ll tell you that’s no surprise. You could say that I’m a bit of a talker. Indeed, that I can talk underwater.
So, what have you been up to?
So, thank you for joining me for coffee and I hope you’ve had a great week and I look forward to catching up.
Photography can be a lot like fishing. When you see that perfect shot, you’ve left your camera at home. Or, as has happened to me many times, the @#$% battery has been flat.Mind you, things were a lot worse back in the day when you could so easily run out of film and you didn’t have the privilege or looking in the back of your camera to see whether you’d got the shot. You had to be very particular and go through a lot of film “just in case”.
Well, tonight was our lucky night even if being able to capture the moment and save it for eternity might not be everybody’s idea of hitting the jackpot. Yes, indeed, I’m sure if you surveyed 100 people, most of them would take winning lotto over being able to take a photograph…especially a night shot of the moon, which, without a tripod and the inherent blurring camera shake, is going to be a “mission impossdible” to perfect.
But that’s not the point.There’s something incredible, spectacular, spiritual and beyond any kind of description about looking through the lens at something amazing and having your own version, interpretation or perspective on that. I also find that photogrphing something helps me to absorb it in much greater detail than I do watching it with the naked eye. There’s that focus. That intense focus where sometimes, I can almost feel myself merging in with the subject and becoming one.
Today is was my father’s 70th Birthday and it seemed quite appropriate that there was a particularly impressive, huge orange moon suspended in the sky as we droive home tonight.I didn’t even have to nudge Geoff to pull over at the lookout to take the photos. We were thinking the same thing and were pleased that for once we had the camera in the car, battery charged and ready for action when such a brilliant photo opportunity was screaming out to be caught.
Being out there in the pitch black darkness staring at the moon through the lens and absorbing a sense of something so serene and beyond human comprehenion and understanding, was incredible. Time stood still for those few minutes and all the rush, bustle and “to-Do’s” melting away in the moonlight.
There was just peace.
Happy Birthdays Mum & Dad. Yes, Mum had her birthday during the week so it was a double celebration.
On Sunday, we had a truly fabulous day celebrating our son’s 11th birthday and we even managed to pull off a party!! Given the amount of effort that went into making the cake and the thought that went into the presents, it’s a miracle that I had any energy left for the party.I must have had a second wind because on reflection, I should have needed CPR.
However, that’s where having a party at the movies was fabulous. We just had to turn up and indeed, they would have done the cake too if I hadn’t been so set in my ways.
With his birthday being on Sunday, I thought we should have his party on the actual day but time was rapidly running away from me and I’d planned nothing. Nothing at all. I usually like to give about a month’s notice for a party but with less than a week to go I found out the Australian Movie, Paper Planes, was showing and then I was madly emailing the cinema and we had a party, guest. and then it was all lights, camera, action!
Paper Planes was a great movie and the kids loved it. The plot was very loosely based on a 2009 episode of Australian Story called “Fly With Me” which tells the story of paper plane enthusiasts, Dylan Parker and James Norton. Here’s a link through to “Fly With Me”: http://www.abccommercial.com/librarysales/program/australian-story-fly-me-dylan-parker
In the movie, Dylan, a young boy living in a small, West Australian country town, dreams of attending the Australian Paper Plane Throwing Championships in Sydney. In the process, his interest becomes an all-consuming, passionate obsession as he methodically reworks his designs to make them fly further and further…especially as he goes on to attend the world championships in Japan.
“This is a film that celebrates the idea that one sheet of A4 paper, and your imagination, can be a great source of entertainment.”Robert Connolly, Director
This quest forms the backbone of the movie but the tragic death of Dylan’s mother in a car accident five months beforehand and his father’s inability to come to terms with it and function at even a very basic level, weaves its way throughout the movie.
Paper Planes not only looks at the hurdles you need to overcome to reach success on the world stage, it also looks at relationships under strain and in particular the relationship between father and son. On one hand, there’s Dylan’s relationship with his dad, which is awkward and strained as his father succumbs to grief and depression and is unable to father his son. On the other hand, there’s the strained relationship between his competitor, Jason, and his pro-golfer Dad, Patrick. In this instance, the father is incredibly supportive but the son, Jason, distances himself from his father and persistently calls him by his first name, despite his father’s repeated requests to call him “Dad”.
If you have been following my blog, you will know that I live with an ongoing life-threatening auto-immune disease and we have had numerous very close calls and it has been a very real possibility that our kids would lose their Mum and this would be an issue with the movie.
Therefore, it was quite a shock to realise that we’d taken our 11 year old son to see a movie where the main character was a boy about his age who has lost his mum…especially for his birthday party. Not only that but the Dad was understandably not coping and they were surviving on tinned spaghetti. As if that wasn’t hard enough, there was even a heartbreaking song. I was naturally quite upset by all of this although Mister said he loved the movie and this darker sub-plot seemed to pass him by. Thank goodness!
Of course, I didn’t miss it.
Nothing about the death of the mother was mentioned in the movie trailers or the press and I do think that’s a bit remiss. For me, there were some pretty heart-wrenching moments which I could have done without, especially at our son’s birthday party which was supposed to be all about fun and happiness, not revisiting shadows I’ve been trying to put behind me.
But as I said, those darker aspects of the movie didn’t seem to impact Jonathon. He was as proud as punch sitting in the cinema eating popcorn with his family and friends.
Then, it was off to the courtyard outside to have everyone sing him “Happy Birthday” and two of his friends even gave a speech. Then the kids were bowing bubbles, running around and just having fun.
He said it was the best birthday he had ever had and all the trials and tribulations making and patching up sloshy birthday cakes, stressing out over presents and organising a birthday party at the last minute were well and truly worth it.
However, the birthday wasn’t over yet.
There’s now cupcakes for school tomorrow but this time from the shop!
On Sunday, when we celebrated our son’s 11th Birthday, it was about so much more than cake, presents and even the much anticipated party. It was a golden opportunity to show our son how much we love and cherish him and for him to sparkle like a diamond in the candlelight. There’s nothing like your birthday!
If you read my last post, you’ll understand that celebrations have become quite a production and I wouldn’t be surprised if it soon finds its way to Broadway or London’s West End.
I’ve already dealt with the cake.
Now, we’re onto the presents…or THE present, in particular. You see, I gave Mister a second-hand Australian Army uniform, which I chanced upon at a local opportunity or thrift shop.
Choosing gifts is something I take pretty seriously. I really do try to slip inside someone else’s skin, walk around in their shoes, see the world through their eyes and their soul to find that “Wow thing”. That thing which makes their heart sing. Not only because they love it but also because they know I understand. I get them. This gift, therefore, somehow reflects that very special, often concealed inner self or perhaps the seeds of that very precious dream, which are just waiting to germinate, flourish and grow yet are still so tender, tentative and so very embryonic.
To put it simply, gift giving is a great way to show empathy, which is such an important component of love. It is the life-giving force which enables us to grow and reach for the stars.
After all, don’t we all know it when someone gives us something which misses the mark entirely or when our significant other gives us something so impersonal that it could’ve come from a stranger? These gifts affect us in a different way, so often stabbing a knife through the heart. Quite bluntly, they clearly don’t understand you at all!!
Although I don’t always find that perfect present which fulfills all these hopes and expectations, I did find the perfect gift for Mister and I couldn’t wait to see his response. As I mentioned, I bought Mister an Australian Army uniform I chanced upon at the op shop. Mister wants to join the army when he grows up and although I’m not keen, I pushed my own feelings aside and supported my son. Of course, the uniform is way too big but dreams are like that at the start. We have to grow into them.
Having children is my greatest achievement. It was my saviour. It switched my focus from the outside to the inside. My children are gifts, they remind me of what’s important.
More than just being an army uniform, this was a very special birthday present from me to him. It said I can put my values and desires aside to respect and nurture his dreams and encourage him to grow up and be himself, rather than trying to shape and mold him into who or what I think he should be and, in effect, turn him into a bonsai…a pruned and shrunk down version of who he was meant to be.
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
― Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
You see, in my youth I was pretty opposed to armies, war and battles. I even took part in protests against Australia’s involvement in the Gulf War and marched through the streets. I wouldn’t describe myself as a pacifist but I’d definitely be of the view: “Make love not war”.
I’m also a person who, at least I hope, has principles and have built up something called “character”. This means having values and standing up for what I believe in. Before the kids were born, for example, there were going to be no Barbies, no guns and definitely no signing up and joining the army. But as much as you bring up your children, they also modify you and seeing pure happiness and joy glowing on your child’s precious face does tinker with these values a bit. Or, at least, it does for me.
Hate to admit it but a persistent campaign of incessant nagging by your kids can also make an impact on all you held dear as well!
Mister was thrilled when he opened up his present. He was so happy with such an enormous smile that he was grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. I was happy too. Both kids held the uniform up against themselves and it looked ridiculously big, reminding me of a comedy sketch from Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW6gj2n51sU
I’m sure Mister didn’t appreciate what giving him that army uniform represented. Of course, he doesn’t know just what a seismic shift it is for me to embrace his love of the army. While I love any form of history and honour our ex-service people and collect memorabilia and books from WWI and WWII, that’s very different from having your one and only beloved son go and sign up. That possibility, though still a long way off, does trouble me a bit because I was also his age once and that was when I decided to become a writer and I’ve never veered off course. Writing is like breathing and I even write in myself. Actually, truth be told, I’m often writing when I should be asleep!! I knew that’s who I was when I was 10 and it was set in stone.
However, as much as I have marched and protested going to war, I also felt it was important that I support my son in how he sees himself and in pursuing his dreams. Recognising who he is as a person and empowering him to walk in his own shoes instead of trying to impose me or my values on him like an iron on transfer. Just because someone is young, it doesn’t mean their dreams and values aren’t precious and worthy of recognition and respect, even if we would rather they pursued a different path. Our children need to know they can trust us with their dreams and aspirations. After all, they come from the very heart of the soul and are so very, very precious and need to be handled with kid gloves … certainly not ridiculed or rejected. That, would be like stomping on the precious wings of a beautiful butterfly which, having just emerged from its chrysalis and waited for its tender wings to dry, is about to take its first tenuous flight…and this is your child who is so much more worthy than that.
So I gave him the army uniform and made him happy.
So happy that he took the army uniform to school on Monday, particularly to show his teacher whose son is in the army. He was as proud of punch and he truly respects all that the uniform stands for and what it means to fight for your country. Well, as much as you can when you’re an 11 year old kid and war is on the other side of the world and it’s not in your own backyard.
So I managed to get it right.
Or did I?
After all, was it just coincidence that I strayed across that army uniform in the op shop or was it meant to be? Serendipity? God? Destiny fate?
This isn’t just an erroneous question. I am an op shop addict and I have never seen an army uniform for sale in an op shop before and yet there it was just a couple of weeks before Mister’s birthday. As much as I might have decided to stretch myself well beyond my comfort zone to encourage his dreams, I also suspect I was nudged.
Our mothers give us so many gifts. They give us the precious gift of life, of course, but they also leave treasured lessons that can guide us along our journeys even when they are no longer with us.
By the way, I should point out that while I was protesting, Geoff’s brother was actually in the Australian army and Mister has grown up with Uncle Terry’s slouch hat in the house. Geoff’s Great Uncle Ralph French died in France during WWI and we have been down to the Australian War Memorial as a family to honour him and we even participated in a special memorial service they hold each day and we laid down a wreath. Another Great Uncle served in Gallipolli and went on to serve in Beersheba in the Australian Light Horse. So it would seem that joining the Armed Forces are in my son’s blood.
PS A week after Mister’s birthday while I’m sitting at Palm Beach, I stumbled across this song Forever Young by Rod Stewart, which I wanted to send as a post birthday present to my son: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgiLWNgpXiQ
Tomorrow, is our son’s 11th Birthday and of course, it’s going to be bigger than Ben Hur.
Surprise! Surprise! I decided to bake a Chocolate Cake and I’m jazzing it up with a caramel and whipped cream filling and smothering the lot with lashings of Milk Chocolate Ganache and a sprinkling of M & Ms. I know that sounds really indulgent,even decadent, but you only have a birthday once a year!
Chocolate cake…You can’t go wrong with chocolate cake.
However, you obviously haven’t heard about my luck with making birthday cakes. It’s so bad that I’ve dubbed it: “The Great Birthday Cake Curse”!! For some strange reason, every single birthday cake I’ve ever made has been cursed, doomed, even double-doomed, as all sorts of dreadful complications set in.
Yet, with the precision of a surgeon, I painstakingly restore the cake and save the day.
Hey, who am I kidding?
There’s nothing precise about me in the kitchen. Rather, I’m very “slap dash”, whacking on the icing to camouflage near-fatal, structural craters, which are so deep that you could hide a semi-trailer inside…even an entire road train!!
Yet, despite these devastating catastrophes, I overcame the hurdles and had that cake out on the plate, candles alight with everybody singing “Happy Birthday”.
My husband’s uncle, who was a builder, always used to say that the difference between an amateur and a professional is being able to cover up their mistakes. Looking at how I’ve patched up my cakes, I can’t help wondering how many houses down in NE Tasmania are being held together by lumps of icing? It’s one of the world’s greatest gap fillers!!
Despite my birthday caketastrophes, I’m renowned for my scrumptious pavlovas and choc-chip cookies. Indeed, when I took my choc chip cookies to scouts recently, I was quite the pied piper attracting throngs of little admirers. Indeed, after seeing the cookies in action, I decided to throw out my copy of How To Win Friends & Influence People and simply hand out cookies instead.
This only compounds my confusion. What’s the deal with the birthday cakes? Why do I have so much trouble? Who knows? It remains one of life’s great mysteries!
No doubt being more practical than yours truly, I can hear you wondering why I don’t just buy a cake instead? Why do I keep torturing myself birthday cake after agonising birthday cake? Talk about a masochist!
Well, if you have ever made a birthday cake for someone you love, you’ll know precisely why I have to make these @#$% birthday cakes myself. That’s right. I add that magic ingredient…my love. You can’t buy, manufacture or even fake that and it’s not something you can buy off the supermarket shelf!
So here I am the night before Mister’s big 11th birthday expecting a tribe of friends at his party. The cakes have been baked without incident. Everything is proceeding exceptionally well.
That was until it came to whipping the cream . A relatively simple task but that’s what turned the tide. Actually, make that whipping the low-fat lactose-free cream. Mister and other family members are lactose intolerant. I was concerned that being low-fat might be a problem but I’m ever the optimist.
I’d been beating the absolute crap out of the cream and it was still sploshing around like milk in the bowl when it should have been resembling butter, if not cheese. It had also splattered absolutely all over the bench, anything parked on it and all down my shirt. That was when I dug out my magnifying glass and had a closer look at the label. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be. Oh my goodness! There it was. “Not suitable for whipping”. The cake was doomed. The party was doomed.Disaster!!!
It was 11.00PM. The shops were shut and I had two cakes which desperately needed to be sandwiched together. In my desperation, I thought the caramel might just be enough. Being my usual Einstein self, I thought that if I scooped the thicker layer of cream off the “milk” and mixed it with the caramel, to put it good old colloquial Australian lingo: “she’ll be right, mate”.
Instead of bulking up the caramel, the cream almost turned it liquid. My only hope was that it would fill up the bubbles in the cake before it ran off the edge and onto the plate. Taking a chance, I hoisted up the second layer of cake and prayed it would stay put, despite slipping and sliding around on roller skates. My only hope now was that the chocolate ganache would hold the cake together against all odds.
Not to be deterred by my humble prayers, catastrophe followed catastrophe and if I hadn’t developed resilience from all my previous birthday cake disasters, there would have been tears, loud wailing and unceasing sobs as I cried and cried and cried….the world’s biggest loser of a Mum!
It might not be my party, but I’ll cry if I want to!! You would cry too if this had happened to you!
It’s My Party: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCPqaG8sVDE
Then and I guess you can see it coming, the @#$% cream stuffed up the ganache, which was sploshing like a chocolate milkshake. Desperate, I added cup after cup of icing sugar, trying to thicken it up. I’d poured in half the bag and it was still looking sloppy but at least, it was holding some shape. I poured the “ganache” over the cake and I looking like a human pretzel, I crossed everything I had to boost my luck.
But no! The ganache flowed over the top of the cake and kept going creating a moat around the poor, drowning cake. The river was so deep, you could literally kayak through it. Definitely not the look I was looking for so I started bailing the ganache out with a ladle and not unsurprisingly, it sploshed all over the bench and that’s when I found the dog not unsurprisingly underfoot.
This is where the birthday cake curse worked in my favour. Not being my first salvage operation, I had a few tricks up my sleeve. In this instance, the answer had to be M & Ms. They cover up a multitude of sin. Although thanks to that wretched low fat lactose free “cream”, even they mucked up and were sliding down the cake. @#$%!!!
However, just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, there’s salvation.
I could have hugged one of my son’s friends. As he takes his first mouthful, he speaks up like a true Masterchef:
“I know what this is. It’s chocolate mouse!”
I’ve never been so thrilled. The chocolate ganache monster had a name and it was good.
Guess, it goes to show that you can’t go wrong with a chocolate cake after all!
By the way, here’s a past post about Birthday Cakes: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5947&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2
Do you have any funny birthday stories to share? I’d love to hear them!!
Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy.
Paul Simon : The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)
Last night, as I kissed our daughter goodnight, she said: “This is my last night of being eight.” She was overjoyed!! She’s one of the youngest in her year at school and it’s no secret she gets a bit cheesed off that it takes eternity for her birthday to come round each year. There’s only a couple of months and the frustrating tail-chasing game starts all over again. Like all kids, she wants to grow up too quick. Our “little Miss” is 9 going on about 15 especially when she struts around the house in her fancy silver high heels, which almost fit her now. It wasn’t that long ago that I’d bought them from the charity shop for dress ups!!
That said, she is still a little girl and boys are still “yuck”…thank goodness!!
I‘m not sure how long that’s going to last with her brother who turns 11 in less than a fortnight and heads off to High School next year. I have no illusions about what all of that means. However, I feel much better prepared for the teenage years than I was for early childhood. At least, I can remember what it was like to be a teenager and I’m sure it was only yesterday.
As we celebrate another round of birthdays and I’m forced to think about the passage of time yet again, I am reminded of time’s cruel tricks. Since all other theories and explanations have failed, I’ve concluded there’s some kind of horrid, malevolent watch matcher lurking somewhere way up in the sky who keeps tinkering with the cogs and speeding things up. Don’t you agree?
I mean…Surely time couldn’t move that fast unless it was taking performance enhancing drugs and even then we’re talking about lethally high doses.
Someone or indeed, something, is doing an awful lot of tinkering with the gears up there. That’s the only way I can explain how time goes really fast when you want it to go slow and conversely barely seems to move at all, when you really want it to speed up like while you’re waiting in a supermarket queue and the person in front of you with enough food to feed an entire army can’t remember their pin and you’re running late and your child is standing on a street corner after dark in their ballet leotard and it’s cold and you don’t know what sort of creeps are hanging around.
Time always goes agonisingly slow then!!!
Once upon a birthday, my grandparents used to sing me “Happy Birthday” on the phone and my grandmother would tell me year after year, about when they “got the phone call” and my father told them they had a grand-daughter and they’d put her in a warmer. She always left out all the details such as how I was facing sunny side up and things had been touch and go. That THAT phone call wasn’t just about “it’s a girl”. It was a serious answer to prayer and their daughter and grand-daughter had made it through a rather perilous journey called birth.
There were no life or death dramas when our daughter was born, aside from when Big Brother, the inimitable “Little Man”, decided to climb up on the hospital bed to have a cuddle with Mum and activated the emergency switch. That immediately and brutally flung the head of the bed straight down and in the process, the drip stand fell down and bumped Miss on the head. Miss ended up with a bruise on her forehead and was sent off to the Special Care Nursery for observation. A storm in a teacup but we still stir Mister about that. It’s not his only tale. The antics of “Little Man” are legendary but largely just involve a healthy curiosity combined with high speed.
Getting back to our daughter’s arrival…
The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the endless skies, my love
To the dark and the endless skies
Roberta Flack (a romantic song but so apt)
The other thing, I remember, of course, is the very first moment I saw her. She was much smaller than I’d expected and only weighed 2.93 kg and was an average length of 49cm. She was exceptionally petite and I guess given that I’m quite tall myself (174cm or 5 ft 10″), I was a little surprised. She was so tiny that we needed to get her baby-pink, miniscule 0000 Bond Suits outfits from the Special Care Nursery where they were kept nice and warm for the premmie babies. My Mum was sent to buy some micro-clothes for when we went home.
I know I’ve mentioned time before but tell me, where does time go? I know lines like that are cliched and a road too well-traveled for a seasoned writer and yet, this great mystery still hasn’t been explained. Not all time travels at the same rate and where my daughter’s concerned, time has fast-forwarded faster than the speed of light!!
After all, I could have sworn she wasn’t born that long ago and she’s only just started school. Yet, somehow she’s migrated from infants into primary and is now well, perhaps not towering over all of the new kindergarten kids but has certainly moved on. I feel like I’ve been hit by a flying brick and I’m lost, almost in a trance or in a dream, while everything flies past me.
I’m so confused!!! (Remember John Travolta as Vinnie Barbarino in Welcome Back Cotter? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29BoqCMRBFk)
I hope she’s had a Happy Birthday. She opened her presents before school and as it turned out, the local radio station was at school this morning and they wished her Happy Birthday on air…much cooler than on Mummy’s blog!!
She took the most amateur-looking Cake Pops to school for her class. I can’t believe I let her talk me into making those because, as my mother advised me, you never make something new for a special occasion and when I’ve broken that Golden Rule, I’ve regretted it. As we all know, regret with family birthday cakes is usually accompanied by nerve crushing angst, tears and if you’re really wound up…hurling the cake across the room.
That is, if the dog hasn’t eaten the cake first. I have very bad memories of a food-thieving, greedy Old English Sheepdog called Rufus being caught in the act. That dog used to steal food and swallow it plastic bag and all. Eventually, we’d find the evidence deposited on the back lawn!!
I don’t know how that dog survived for so long!
Instead of having a special birthday dinner tonight, the kids were off to Cubs and Scouts. As we still haven’t sorted out the details of either of the kids’ birthday parties yet, this was opportune as a few of their friends were there. That meant making a batch of chocolate cupcakes and huge boxes of chips for tonight’s celebration. Miss told the lady at the checkout that: “Scouts love junk food and we purchased supplies. What a great ambassador!
There’s a world of quotes which I could pass onto my daughter but here are a couple from AA Milne’s: Winnie The Pooh.
I also like this one from Stephen Fry:
“We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I’m going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.”
― Stephen Fry
Happy Birthday Precious Miss!
May all of your dreams come true..,in time. I’d like you to grow up before you open that dream fashion business in Paris. Climb some trees. Make clothes for your dolls and film them with your iPad. Ride your bike. Walk the dogs and wear your hair in plaits with rainbow nails and silver high heels, which are still too big and keep baking glittery cakes and drawing precious pictures just for fun.
As much as you yearn to grow up, you can’t rewind time. It only speeds up.
You might not appreciate it it now but there’s real beauty in growing slow.
Love & Blessings!
Rowena & Mummy
PS A week after Mister’s birthday sitting at Palm Beach, I stumbled across this song Forever Young by Rod Stewart, which I wanted to send to Miss as a post birthday present: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgiLWNgpXiQ