Tag Archives: history

Weekend Coffee Share… 11th June, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s well after midnight here and the dog who was parked underneath my desk, somehow relocated without catching my attention, and another dog, Zac, is parked beside me. Raindrops pitter-patter on  a tin section of roof overhead. Meanwhile, outside the backyard has become something of a wetland, submerged in water. Sitting here at my desk, it doesn’t take much imagination to believe I’m onboard some kind of house boat. Well, the only except being that the ground is steady underfoot and not lilting with the waves.  Thank goodness for that! By the way, the waves aren’t that far from here…just at the end of the street about 700 metres away.

Needless to say, I should be snuggled away in bed asleep, basking away in the warmth of my electric blanket. However, it’s a long weekend and I slept in this morning and had a nap this afternoon. So, I set myself up for this post-midnight moment with you, a cup of herbal tea, my computer screen and the dogs.

It’s so easy to feel reflective, out in the elements with the rain falling all around me. Our house is built more for Summer. So, there’s a fine line between inside and out. Moreover, with the dogs needing to go in, these boundaries merge even closer . Indeed, the back door is open beside me, and I know I should be cold. That it should be closed.Yet, there’s something very refreshing merging with the rain in semi-darkness.

Or, perhaps I’ve finally crossed that fine line into madness, delirium. Drunk on too much poetic thought. A case of Keats.

Oops, I just got sprung. My son just appeared in his dressing gown and found me awake. I’m in trouble. So, I’m needing to pause our coffee til the morning, which could very well extend into the afternoon. I have a feeling that it’s going to be hard to sneak into bed without alerting my husband about just how late I’ve stayed up. But it’s hard. The raindrops almost sound like music and like the pied piper, they’re luring me off into some sort of trance. A trance that should be sending me to sleep, but is actually doing the reverse. I’m firing up on all cylinders. Oh oh!

However, before I head off to the land of nod, what did you get up to last week? How was it for you? I hope it’s been good.

……

It’s now Monday afternoon, and I swear my backside has barely touched my seat after walking the dogs with the family, and already I’m being called away. Last weekend, I bought some daffodil bulbs and my husband’s informed me that they’ve already started to sprout AND he’s putting some good soil in the pot and it looks like the only thing missing now, is me. Humph!

Last week was quite reflective for me. Last week, I shared about my friend’s funeral, and that’s not something you just throw off like a blanket on a hot night. Indeed, I was in the supermarket on Friday and suddenly had this intense awareness of both her presence and her absence, which kind of gripped me. It was strange, too, because I don’t recall ever seeing her in the supermarket. It was just one of those things. I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to have this conscious awareness of the fleetingness of life, but there’s that temptation or even expectation just to get on with it, and even not to talk about her anymore. Yet, I don’t want to be like that with people I care about, even more so with people I love. Moreover, when I go, I don’t want my loved ones to be crippled, but I don’t want them to pretend I didn’t exist. I want them to build a statue…a place for birds to stop and chat. Perhaps, that’s going a bit too far.

Famous Fights

Anyway, this week I’ve been uncovering all sorts of secrets researching my family history through the online newspapers. I shared two of these stories on the blog. The first was about a fight between Thomas Waterhouse & One-Eyed Bourke in 1857 and the other was  the fractured love story of Ivy and Jack, which ended up in court for breach of promise. That story provided quite an insight into dating around 1910, which was much more supervised that today. Of course, we know that, but it was interesting to see how that all played out.

Valentine 1910

This week, I also contributed to Friday Fictioneers. My take on the prompt, Lover’s Potion was rather influenced by reading the love letters of Ivy and Jack and his betrayal.

Yesterday, I also wrote a post questioning whether most of us feel different and that we don’t belong in some way and also whether that sense of difference and not conforming to the perceived norm was actually a good thing. Had benefits. I put this out there more to get feedback and generate some kind of discussion, so I’d love you to check it out. I’ve just thrown different ideas out there, and haven’t really formed a strong conclusion. Here’s The Struggle to Belong…Or not.

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Hot Roti made by yours truly and served with babaganoush.

Lastly, I did want to mention that we’re engrossed in Masterchef Australia 2018. We LOVE it and all sit around the TV watching it every night it’s on. While I don’t try to replicate the dishes from the show, I tend to pick out new ingredients or elements to add to what I already make. I was particularly proud of myself on Friday night for making roti or flatbread. I’d watched them making it on the show, and it seemed so easy that I thought I’d have a go. Much to my amazement, it worked and I was so proud of myself. I am very quick to doubt my abilities and really should have more faith in myself. Do you find that?

Anyway, being a public holiday here in Australia and having my husband and kids home, sitting here and the dogs running around, isn’t doing much for my capacity to write. So, I’m heading off., not doubt just in time for them all to take off. They have Gang Show rehearsals this afternoon.

I hope you have a great week ahead and I look forward to popping round to your place for coffee too.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali

Best wishes,

Rowena

Babushka…Friday Fictioneers.

Before Grandma’s body had even turned cold, the aunts, uncles, cousins, and even my own father were all out in the backyard digging, searching for Grandma’s buried treasure. A fanciful storyteller, all my life she’d spun wondrous tales of the Romanov’s and Russian royalty. Yet, that didn’t correlate with the woman working at the Hobart Jam Factory.  Of course, she was Russian. Her accent was straight out of a Bond movie, but Russian royalty? Then, the spade hit metal and Dad unearthed a metal box.  She might not have been Anastasia, but her grandfather had been her killer.

……

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Connie Gayer. BTW Babushka means grandmother in Russian.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Belated Weekend Coffee Share 29th May, 2018.

Welcome to a coffee share that is so late, that I’ve even missed the online deadline. The shop is shut, and for the first time ever, I’ve been left outside pounding on the door: “Let me in ! Let me in!”

Well, it’s my own fault. Even the extended weekend opening hours have to come to an end, and given that it’s now Tuesday afternoon, I am actually wondering whether I should be hosting a weekend coffee share after all. Isn’t it just a bit too late? Why don’t I save it up for next weekend?

 

Above: I am enjoying Autumn.

You see, the thing is that I actually had a very busy and exciting week last week and it’s actually too much to even condense into one week let alone spread it over two, even if the next week is looking rather empty after doing so much. Indeed, I’m currently needing rest and recover.

However, I also figured that some of us need that daily coffee hit, and perhaps a few caffeine addicts might be needing a mid-week hit.

So, given that I’m so far behind, I’m just going to take you through the highlights.

Last Tuesday, which is now exactly a week ago, I have a fairly important meeting with my lung specialist. My lung volumes have dropped by 20% in the last six months and instead of his usual: “I’ll see you in six months”, it was I’ll see you in two weeks and you need to have a lung scan and also handed me a swag of other tests. Well, I didn’t pass them all in flying colours. That goes with the territory. However, my lungs haven’t changed and that’s what really matters. So, from where I was coming from, I consider that good news.

 

After the lung specialist, I caught the train into the Art Gallery of NSW and saw the Archibald Exhibition. This is Australia’s most prized portrait competition, and it’s also been prone to quite a bit of controversy over the years. I am rediscovering my passion for art atm, and just even the sensation of looking at deep brush strokes carved through thick, luscious paint. I can’t explain what it does to me, but it like walking into a dark house at night and all the lights suddenly switching on at once. Wow! I wasn’t necessarily conscious of it at the time. However, I found myself drawn into the eyes and even zooming in and photographing just the eyes on quite a number of portraits. They seems to be telling me something, although in typical fashion, I can’t quite decipher the words and the messages is quite nebulous and difficult to untangle. Anyway, it’s left me wanting  to learn how to draw eyes. Humph..I ‘d probably be better off trying to trace around my hand. Art is an intimidating thing to step into. I was even anxious and crippled with self-doubt as a kid, and when my teacher picked me up on it, I wasn’t bad. Indeed, I got an A.

Anyway, I ended up writing two posts about my trip to the Art Gallery and this included a look at the importance of eye contact.

 

Moving right along, on Friday I caught the train down to Parramatta where Geoff and I went staying for a Couples’ Retreat with Muscular Dystrophy NSW. I am a member of MDNSW because my auto-immune disease is considered a neuro-muscular condition. The Muscular Dystrophy Association actually has quite a broad scope helping people with quite a range of very rare conditions under that one umbrella, which can ideally get the lot of us more acknowledgement and assistance. By bringing us all together, I wouldn’t call it a self-help group. I just see it as being like any networking meeting with colleagues. We encourage and understand each other and while most of us straggle to walk or are in scooters, wheelchairs etc, we still seem to “stand on our own two feet”. We’re a fairly independent bunch. Staff are there to facilitate the get togethers, provide additional information and are sort of like the backbone, which holds us together. I find it very important to mix with “my people” because I get sick of trying to explain myself everywhere else and it becomes a place of psychological, mental and physical rest. That said, I did become pretty animated meeting up with my own and I was exhausted at the end of the weekend, also because we pushed ourselves to see as much of Parramatta as we could. I could recover when I got home.

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Writing with a real quill…Or, at least, being a poseur.

I’ve written a few extensive posts about our trip to Parramatta, and haven’t caught up yet. However, there was walking around the streets of Parramatta and talking in the historic St John’s Church and Town Hall while stopping off at cafes and being quite mesmerized photographing the fountain in Centenary Square. My husband and I are both photographers and see the world better through the lens. We also toured historic Elizabeth Farm, where you could interact with the exhibits and really get a feel for the place and Government House which had real artifacts and was much more stuffy.

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I haven’t quite had time to write up about visiting Parramatta Park, which runs along side the Parramatta River. However, in addition to falling in love with the oaks trees in their glorious Autumn finery, we couldn’t but spot a huge tree where hundreds of cockatoos (Corellas) had found a home. They were making an awful din, if that’s how you interpret the screech of the cockatoo. Anyway, something scared them and all of a sudden the sky was filled with birds in a way I have never quite seen before. It was amazing and fortunately the camera cooperated and we managed to seize the moment. Yippee! Photography is so much like fishing and so often I’m left talking about the one  that got away. However, this time, I actually caught it.

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Since returning home, I’ve had a big sleep. Actually, a number of big sleeps in addition to trying to share our wonderful adventures on the blog.

Here are some links to posts from my travels:

What Are Museums For?

A Weekend In Parramatta, Sydney

An Autumn Stroll in Sydney

Making Eye Contact At the Art Gallery of NSW

The Artists Behind the Eyes

We hope you and yours had a great week and that you enjoyed catching up with me for coffee and enjoying a little piece of Australia.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Ecclectic Ali

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

What Are Museums For?

Yesterday, we had what I will call “an unfortunate museum encounter”, which has raised the question, at least in my own mind, about why we have museums and how the interaction between visitor and exhibits should be conducted. Are we still living in the days where the museum dictates how the public should respond to an exhibit? Or, have we loosened the chains and allowed the public to discover history for themselves?

Over the last week, I unwittingly put this philosophical question to the test when I saw the Archibald Exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW,  Elizabeth Farm at Rose Hill and Old Government House out at Parramatta, in Western Sydney. Since I’ve already shared my interpretation of the Archibald Exhibition, today I’ll be focusing on Elizabeth Farm and Old Government House.

Somewhere along the dimly lit corridors of memory, I remember visiting Elizabeth Farm as a child and given my love of history and historic architecture, I’ve always wanted to go back. However, I’ve only been out to Parramatta a couple of times. Although it’s a major city, it’s a bit off the beaten track for us. Moreover, when you’re caught up in the rush and bustle, museums seem like a bit of a luxury…an indulgence. Something, I usually only get around to on holidays, or if there’s a special exhibition.

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Looking like a real writer with my quill at Elizabeth Farm.

What I really loved about Elizabeth Farm is that it is a touchy-feel museum. Everything inside is a replica or historical equivalent, including the portraits on the wall, which look very authentic. They’ve even gone to the trouble of copying the very sideboards, chairs and other pieces of furniture, and using them to furnish the house. That meant, I could touch everything. I could smell the spices on display in the kitchen, and I could even sit down at the writing desk and chair and pose for photos holding the quill. That gave me a real buzz…Rowena the writer. We could also sit down on the lounge chairs, with their firm horse hair bases and run our hands through the soft, luxurious possum fur rugs, which were draped over the top. Indeed, it was quite a sensory experience. (We are, however, hoping that the rug was made from New Zealand possums which are actually an environmental pest, very much like rabbits are here in Australia). There was also an informative DVD about the history of the house narrated by much loved Australian actor, Garry McDonald. When I heard him talk about bringing that sense of being in a bustling household back to life. I immediately thought about the houses I grew up in and indeed our own home with kids and dogs running through the place and a sense of chaos, adventure, laughter, tears and amusement. This place was anything but a mausoleum.

By the way, I should also add that we went on an informative tour of the house and our guide was absolutely delightful and very informative. Indeed, initially when it was just Geoff and I on the tour, I immediately introduced ourselves, and she said: “you were reading my mind. That rarely happens”. So, that was a lovely personal touch, along with the fact she’s worked at Hyde Park Barracks, which is of personal interest to me as I’m descended from an Irish famine Orphan who passed through there.

Elizabeth Farm

Joseph Lycett, The residence of John McArthur Esqre. near Parramatta, New South Wales, 1825. Sydney Living Museums.

Sunday, we drove over to Parramatta Park and visited Old Government House, which was a very different experience. Old Government House is owned by the National Trust and the displays are authentic historical items, while Elizabeth Farm is part of of the Living Museums network. I don’t know if my experience is typical of visiting a National Trust venue and indeed, I hope it isn’t. However, upon arrival and paying our entry fees, we were told no flash photography. We were given no other limits on photography. I was not only struck by the grand entry hallway, but also the keyhole. I have visited a number of historic homes in my time, but as far as I can recall, it’s the first time I’ve actively looked through the keyhole into the world outside and had what I will call an “Alice in Wonderland experience”. I don’t think I’d actually considered that you could see anything through a keyhole, and it reminded me of childhood stories, eves dropping, spying…seeing and hearing the forbidden. Something not intended for your eyes and ears. So, I knelt down in front of the keyhole and toppled over onto my derriere and perched my camera in front of the keyhole trying to capture the tree outside.

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Naughty Alice looking through the key hole…Old Government House, Parramatta. National Trust.

Unfortunately, that’s when wonderland came to an abrupt halt. I was squawked at by a rather militant guide, who told me you’re not allowed to take close-up photos in the house, only room shots. She also seemed quite irritated that I was actually sitting at the door and was stopping other people from viewing it and that I could come back and book in a photo shoot. She scared the bejeebers  out of me, and I felt like a naughty little school girl who was taking photos of the staff room or some other private, inner sanctum. I’d been a “bad, bad girl”.

However, the thing was that I wasn’t in a forbidden inner sanctum. I had paid my entry fee. I wasn’t using my flash and by looking through the keyhole, I wasn’t even photographing something inside. Indeed, most of what I captured was the sky, which to the best of my clearly inferior knowledge, isn’t the property of the National Trust. I was so shaken and outraged, in quite an uncharacteristic way, that I approached her. The whole thing seemed mad, and after the great time we’d had only the day before and going into the Art Gallery of NSW during the week and being able to photograph even the finalists of the Archibald Competition up close, it made no sense. Indeed, I also noticed another visitor taking close-up shots like myself but using her phone instead of an SLR with zoom, and nothing was said to her. Fortunately, after encountering this woman, we met another guide who was very friendly and chatty and helped me to calm down.

Above- There was an exhibition on covering Governor Phillip’s time in India and establishing the links between India and NSW through history. As early as 1850, 4 ships a week were arriving in Sydney from India, so there were close cultural ties.

By the way, I would also like to point out that there were only a few people in Old Government House at the time. So, it wasn’t like I was blocking traffic. Indeed, the Archibald Exhibition was much more crowded and nobody complained there.

This brings me back to my original question about the role of museums these days. Have we moved beyond the starchy museums of the the past into something more interactive? Or, given the value and fragility of the exhibits, does that line between exhibit and audience still need to be maintained and never the twain shall meet?

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Is this where I belong?

Of course, I would like to see some combination of the two and this is what I am used to in museums these days. There are elements of the exhibition that the kids and tactile people can touch and feel along with audio-visual presentations which bring the history to life. I think visitors to our museums have spread their wings, and don’t appreciate having them clipped by an old world approach.

What do you think? What is your experience of contemporary museums? Please leave your feedback in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Details

Elizabeth Farm is located at 70 Alice Street, Rosehill, near Parramatta.

Old Government House is located in Parramatta Park.

A Weekend in Parramatta, Sydney.

Last weekend, my husband and I went to Parramatta for the weekend. In many ways, it was quite an unlikely place for us to go for the weekend, as it’s not exactly known as a tourist Mecca. However, I’m really glad we had the chance to explore this part of Sydney for the first time in any kind of depth. By the way, the reason we were staying in Parramatta, was that we were on a couple’s retreat hosted by Muscular Dystrophy NSW, which helps support my various “idiocyncracies”, as I’ve now  refer to them.

It is hard to quite known how to adequately describe Parramatta. Indeed, it’s hard to to encapsulate any place in a few words, or a handful of photographs. Yet, it’s seems that travellers, those of us who are only passing through, always feel the need to try, at least on the back of a postcard.

If I had to summarise Parramatta on the back of a postcard, I’d start of with a brief history lesson.

Parramatta was founded in 1788, the same year that the First Fleet arrived in Sydney. The British settlement desperately needed food and was struggling to find fertile soil in Sydney Cove.  During 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip had reconnoitred several places before choosing Parramatta as the most likely place for a successful large farm. Parramatta was the furthest navigable point inland on the Parramatta River (i.e. furthest from the thin, sandy coastal soil) and also the point at which the river became freshwater and therefore useful for farming. Although initially called Rose Hill, On 4 June 1791 Phillip changed the name of the township to Parramatta, approximating the term used by the local Aboriginal people.[19]

 

In 1789,Phillip granted a convict named, James Ruse, the land of Experiment Farm at Parramatta on the condition that he develop a viable agriculture. There, Ruse became the first person to successfully grow grain in Australia. The Parramatta area was also the site of John Macarthur’s Elizabeth Farm, which had pioneered the Australian wool industry by  in the 1790s. Philip Gidley King’s account of his visit to Parramatta on 9 April 1790 is one of the earliest descriptions of the area. Walking four miles with Governor Phillip to Prospect, he saw undulating grassland interspersed with magnificent trees and a great number of kangaroos and emus.

In years gone by, the story of Parramatta would’ve been a white man’s story. Indeed, when I was at school, we learned nothing about the frontier wars between Europeans and the indigenous Aboriginal people. It’s only now, that I’ve heard about the Battle of Parramatta, a major battle of the Hawkesbury and Nepean Wars, which occurred in March 1797 where resistance leader Pemulwuy led a group of Bidjigal warriors, estimated to be at least 100, in an attack on a government farm at Toongabbie, challenging the British Army to fight.Governor Arthur Phillip built a small house for himself on the hill of The Crescent. In 1799 this was replaced by a larger residence which, substantially improved by Governor Lachlan Macquarie from 1815 to 1818, which is now referred to as Old Government House.

Above: St John’s Church

So, having given you a brief historical snapshot, how about you join me at Parramatta Station. After such a long trip, I just had to stop for refreshments at the Guylian Cafe, where I had a heavenly chocolate dessert and a cappuccino. From there, I walked across to Church Street. On the left, there’s historic St John’s Anglican Church and across the road, you’ll find Parramatta Town Hall, which reminds me of a two-tier wedding cake. Next to the Town Hall, the future of Parramatta is starting to rise out of what has often been hard times. Indeed, throughout our walks around the Parramatta CBD, new buildings and construction sights resemble alien intruders. Next to the Town Hall, we spotted the Bourke Street Bakery, where we had an unforgettable Raspberry Cream Meringue Tart. That’s when we spotted the captivating water fountain, and I’ve just found out this whole area is now called Centenary Square. There’s a ping pong table, large outdoor chess set and on Sunday night, we even spotted a group doing salsa outside together. So, there really are moves afoot to give Parramatta not only a facelift, but also a strong community feel and a heart.

This leads me into a dynamic thriving food area further up Church Street, known as “Eat Street”. Personally, I found this area had a sort of bazaar feel about it with restaurants and street food all sandwiched together to a point that you’re almost not sure where your chair or table belongs at times. There are street vendors, restaurants from a smattering of cultures…Italian, Greek, Lebanese, Thai, Mexican, Cuban. The choices were dazzling and in the end we went to a burger place my husband had been to near work and I had a pork belly burger. We went to a chocolate cafe for dessert. Yum.

Above: I spotted these in the Army Disposal Store.

Moving further Church Street towards Phillip Street, the buildings looked rather old and sad to be honest. There’s old and historic, but quick cheap and nasty construction only gets worse with age. However, that’s not to say that the shops didn’t have character and appeal. Indeed, we found an army surplus store, which in itself is a rare breed these days, but this one also had loads of personality, and there was even a chandelier when you walked in. I also found Tom Cruise and the Terminator on the wall 80s style. In terms of interesting places, I should also point out the Bavarian Bier Cafe, which is housed inside an historic Church. We had planned to have dinner there on Saturday night, but couldn’t get a table.

Above: The German Bier Cafe.

We stayed at the Parkroyal Hotel on Phillip Street, and really enjoyed our stay. As I said, we were staying there with other couples from Muscular Dystrophy NSW. We met up together in the foyer and had a beautiful dinner in the hotel restaurant together on Friday night. I think I only knew one person well beforehand, but by the end of the weekend, we were one big happy and well-fed family and exchanging email addresses and contacts. It really felt like such a blessing to all get together, but it was also great that the weekend away also provided for time for Geoff and I to be on our own. We have really been quite desperate to spend any time to actually focus on each other and take care of each other, without trying to spread ourselves four ways, or even further if the dogs or work are also demanding attention. We are by no means alone in this and I’m very grateful to Muscular Dystrophy NSW for organizing the retreat, my parents for taking the kids and a friend for minding the dogs and the home front.

In my next post, we will visit Elizabeth Farm and Old Government House.

Have you ever been to Parramatta? What are your thoughts about it?

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – May 5, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Don’t know if anyone missed my weekly coffee share posts. However, I’ve been rather embroiled in the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, where my theme was Letters to Dead Artists. The overarching structure was to provide a brief bio for each artist, ideally choose one painting or sculpture which really touched me in some way and tie in my experience or attachment to it. Needless to say, the word limit totally blew out, but at the end of the month, I have quite a sound body of work and I’m guessing it’ll be around 40,000 – 50,000 words. Working out the word count is tomorrow’s job.

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Avoca Beach looking towards Terrigal, NSW.

For old timers at Beyond the Flow, you’ll know I love nothing more than showing off our gorgeous Australian climate and beaches which are warm and balmy for about 9 months of the year. Today, it was a bright sunny day with bright blue skies and a temp of  22°C or 71°F. Still, lately the locals have been mumbling and complaining and starting to rug up. We’ve had a few days around 18°C and it’s been described as a “cold snap”…. “Freezing”. My husband grew up further South in Tassie, and he thinks we’re a bunch of wimps!

This week, the kids went back to school after a two week break. It always feels like a rude awakening getting back into the school routine and all their activities, where I can legitimately spend the day in my PJs, especially on the first day of the holidays. That’s become my time honoured tradition. I can barely remember what we did during the holidays but I did see Loving Simon with my daughter and her friends. She very kindly invited me to join them, after I offered to sit somewhere else. I found that very touching. We also went out sailing in the small laser and I managed to get a brief paddle in the kayak before having to charge off to take our daughter to a dance audition. I wasn’t real happy cutting my paddle short, but I did treat myself to a coffee and cake while I was waiting and walked around and photographed the wetland there, which was almost sufficient compensation.

Another holiday highlight was going to Barangaroo on Sydney Harbour for lunch with my mother and daughter. This whole area not far from the Sydney CBD, is a melting pot of revamped industrial buildings, office blocks, restaurants and cafes and shops. Probably the thing I noticed most about the place, was how big the buildings were. They were huge, and even the spaces in between them were monolithic. I felt like an ant, dwarfed by their shadows. We had lunch at a Japanese restaurant and I had a Bento Box…yum! The food was exquisite and the service impeccable and so friendly. I was in heaven. Can’t wait to go back.

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Inside the Art Gallery of NSW

After lunch, I set off for the Art Gallery of NSW. Writing about all these artists was rekindling my love of art and it’s been so long since I’ve been there although I only had about two hours up my sleeve, which left me facing the art gallery equivalent of speed dating and I had a lot of old friends to catch up with as well as the new. Moreover, The Lady & the Unicorn Exhibition was on. It was fabulous, but what I appreciated even more was the depth and breadth of what’s in that gallery, and that as an Australian I could be proud of what we’ve got. Indeed, I was quite impressed (and surprised) to find a Self-Portrait by Renoir. Hey, it wasn’t in The Louvre…Wow! I also noticed a few statues on loan from London’s Tate Gallery, which is such a great idea. What not share these beautiful treasures?!!

Meanwhile, the pups are now about 9 months old and Rosie is chewing more stuff than ever before. Indeed, it’s taking us back in time to when the kids were small and there was that horrid phase in the house where we had to toddler proof everything and see random objects through the eyes of a little person. I’m sure anyone who has ever had kids will know that exhilarating relief when you can finally remove all the cupboard latches and start storing things below head height. Well, we’re back there again and with the kids going back to school this week, we had a few tantrums and mass carnage spread right across much of the house when I’ve been stupid enough to leave them inside when I’m not with them. Still, you’ve gotta love em. Meanwhile, they snuggle up and Zac is almost melting into my son’s lap and his all wrapped up in his blanket while we’re watching The Voice Australia on catch-up TV.

By the way, I probably should mention that I’m madly practicing for a violin performance in I think 2 weeks. Well, that’s actually more of a confession that I’ve been doing anything but, and hoping that by putting my what I’m supposed to be doing down here in black & white, that I’ll get that bow moving.

Well, I’ve been a dreadful host. I still haven’t offered you a tea or coffee and not so much as a bite to eat. Slack! Slack! Slack!

Anyway, it’s getting late. Actually, it’s now getting early. Time to bid you goodnight.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Alli

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Y- Jack Butler Yeats- Letters to Dead Poets…A-Z Challenge.

 

Welcome to the second last day of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. Today, we’re moving onto Irish artist, Jack Butler Yeats (1887-1957), who was not only a painter, but also won a medal in swimming at the x Olympics, wrote poetry and novels including a stream of conscious novel, which had the nod from none less than James Joyce of Ulysses fame himself. I’m not sure whether this qualifies him as a Renaissance Man, but he certainly could pass as Rodin’s Thinker, which represents a fusion of athletic fitness, the intellect and the poetic mind (at least in my humble, unqualified opinion!)

Initially, I’d chosen Jack Butler Yeats, because I’d written top his brother, William Butler Yeats, two years ago when my A-Z theme was Writing Letters to Dead Poets. While I didn’t know much about either brother at the outset, I felt a connection through our shared Irish blood. That although I’m a sixth generation Australian and my last Irish ancestor arrived in 1855, that I still have more than a glass and a half of Irish in me and I’ve been wanting to explore my own cultural heritage further.

We’ll be accompanied by The Dubliners playing The Town I Loved So Well.

Portrait jack Butler Yeats

Born in London in 1887, Jack Yeats was the youngest son of Irish portrait artist, John Butler Yeats and Susan Pollexfen, and the brother of   W. B. Yeats, who received the 1923 Nobel Prize in Literature. He grew up in County Sligo, Ireland with his maternal grandparents, and was deeply influenced by his grandfather, William Pollexfen who was a former seaman. He returned to his parents’ home in London in 1887. Early in his career he worked as an illustrator for magazines, drew comic strips and wrote articles for Punch under the pseudonym “W. Bird”. In 1894, he married Mary Cottenham, also a native of England, and they resided in County Wicklow. From around 1920, Yeats developed into an intensely Expressionist artist, moving from illustration to Symbolism. He was sympathetic to the Irish Republican cause, but not politically active. However, he believed that ‘a painter must be part of the land and of the life he paints’, and his own artistic development, as a Modernist and Expressionist, helped capture 20th century Dublin , partly by depicting specifically Irish subjects, but also by doing so in the light of universal themes such as the loneliness of the individual, and the universality of the plight of man. Samuel Beckett wrote that “Yeats is with the great of our time… because he brings light, as only the great dare to bring light, to the issueless predicament of existence.”[4] The Marxist art critic and author John Berger also paid tribute to Yeats from a very different perspective, praising the artist as a “great painter” with a “sense of the future, an awareness of the possibility of a world other than the one we know”. Moreover, his father recognized that Jack was a far better painter than he, and also believed that ‘some day I will be remembered as the father of a great poet, and the poet is Jack’. Jack Yeats died in Dublin in 1957, and was buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery.

Perhaps I’m running out of brainpower towards the end of the challenge, or Jack Butler Yeats is more difficult to fathom than most. That’s why he’s running a day late. The more I get to know him, the more confused I become. I guess that’s a natural part of getting to know anyone. That, after you get passed those initial introductions, it’s like all the pieces suddenly fall out of the cereal box at once, and it takes time and effort to assemble them into any kind of picture. If I was a surrealist like Salvador Dali, or an abstract expressionist like Jackson Pollock, that might not matter. They’ve already accepted that nothing makes sense. That there is no natural order of things, and our world is utter chaos. However, my background is in historical research where you research, document and footnote the facts. Moreover, you’re also meant to come up with conclusions, which should look more like a neat stack of boxes, than multi-coloured scribble on a whiteboard, which is how my thoughts are looking  right now.

This brings me to that great imponderable…Can anyone truly know anyone? I mean even when you look into your nearest and dearest’s eyes, how much do you really see? How well do you really know them? Can you be sure? Or, are you seemingly dancing together, yet actually listening to different songs with entirely different meanings? Since most of us marry our opposite, it’s probably more than likely. Yet, diversity, and having complementary skill sets and the capacity to extend each other, are all wonderful things. It’s just that sometimes it’s nice to look into someone’s eyes, and at least see a glimpse of ourselves. Get the feeling they’ve walked in our shoes…and reciprocate.

dogs

That’s Lady at the back and Bilbo at the front.

My dog has mastered this, especially when I’m cooking. Lady sits there at the foot of the stove and could easily take out “Best in Show” switching on her huge, chocolate-brown eyes, oozing with so much love and understanding, that I fall completely under her spell and feed her. Yet, for some reason we humans are losing the art of eye-contact, especially in this age of the screen. It really helps to bridge the gap between two souls.

 

 

 

Anyway, immersing myself in all things Jack Butler Yeats, last night I was reading:  Passages from the Letters of John Butler Yeats Selected By Ezra Pound. Before I start linking some of his thoughts to his paintings, I thought I’d go off course again, and share some of his thoughts about poets and poetry…

“With the man of poetical temperament experience is an end in itself. Others go through life, as though they were tourists, with their eyes open for enjoyment and some kind of profitable speculation.[1]

“Carlyle was by nature all poet and musician, but his Scotch conscience put a veto on his natural inclinations. He married an ugly wife, thereby perhaps scaring away the Muses. It is often so.[2]

“…there is another type (of man) the man who does not want to rule or be ruled, and that is the man who writes poetry.[3]

Jack_butler_yeats_rha_man_in_a_room_thinking)

Jack Butler Yeats, Man In A Room Thinking.

One of the resounding themes of these letters was just how much Yeats valued solitude, and it could well be said that he elevated the Solitary Man to the heights of Da Vinci’s Renaissance Man.

“I will write again of the solitary man. First of all, alone among men, he is himself and only himself. The companionable man is himself and someone else, seeking expression through the medium of prose or action, thinking of other people and therefore always leaning towards compromise and for that reason working in a spirit of insincerity. Poetry is the voice of the solitary, as resonant and as pure and lonely as the lark at sunrise. If the lark were to bother itself with the `Collective Soul’ of the universe, it would not sing at all. Again, the solitary is the only man who retains his spiritual integrity. With the companionable, belief is opinion living in the heart of talk or action, and dying away when the heat fades.

Old hermits were right in their instinct for the desert since it meant a living to oneself, wrong in the sense that it meant a separation from human voices and from the faces of men, women and children, an uprooting of the human plant from its natural surroundings.[4]

Yeats Man In a Train Thinking

However, as much as Yeats elevated the solitary man, he populates his paintings with people and there was one particular story I came across which revealed he had quite a love and compassion for the every day person on the street, or in this instance train, and their story. For this story, we’re turning to Man on a Train Thinking 1928.

The painting went up for auction recently and this account appeared in The Irish Times:

“The painting depicts a man whom Yeats met on a train from Dublin to the west in 1928. Yeats apparently noticed a man “in the corner of the carriage, who had a woebegone expression and whose coat and collar were buttoned up to his ears”.

He looked so wan and sad that the artist asked him: “Are you ill? Can I do anything to help you?”

“No, sir, thank you,” replied the man.“You see, it’s like this, sir,” he continued. “I bought a ticket for the Calcutta sweepstake for a pound note. Then I sold it to a man for £2. And now that ticket has won a prize for a hundred thousand,” and he sighed dolefully.

“Great heavens,” Yeats said, “if that happened to me I’d have cut my throat.” Then, to the artist’s consternation, his sickly looking fellow-traveller moaned: “That’s just what I have done, sir!”[5].

By the way, I completely misread this painting. What I saw was a man sitting on the train reading a book. Yeats’ solitary man…the poet. This interpretation really resonated with me as the only time I can really get stuck into a book, is on the train, although I always write a lot too and always take a notepad and a book with me. That said, I’ve also been caught short, and resorted to those last blank pages they leave at the back of the book. BY the way, my train trip is quite scenic, as the train snakes around the waterfront and crosses over the Hawkesbury River Bridge. The view’s particularly magnificent at sunset, illuminated by the golden glow of the setting sun.

A Giant Reading

Jack Butler Yeats, A Giant Reading.

Yeats also addressed the social isolation experienced by people who are different in some way and saw it as a mixed blessing:

“A man on his deathbed or after he has been snubbed by his wife may enjoy a few moments of solitude, the rest of his life is a noisy gregariousness. He fears solitude as a child fears the dark, indeed it is a universal dread which one must learn to conquer. A poet learns his lesson generally by finding himself early in life shunned, he is odd. `Why was I born with a different face?’ Blake asked. Genius is fundamentally odd and men hate the exceptional.[6]

As you might recall, people with extraordinary physical appearance often became attractions in the circus, where they became spectacles for general entertainment. In A Giant Reading, he’s showing two circus weirdos sitting together…the tallest man in the world and the blonde woman sitting next to him is an albino. Of course, that wasn’t how I saw it and thought it was possibly a couple who’d just got married…the newlyweds.

Yeats, Jack Butler, 1871-1957; Among the Reeds

Jack Butler Yeats, Among the Reeds.

Finally, I just wanted to mention Among the Reeds. Although I don’t get out very often, I love kayaking and when my parents had a holiday house on the waterfront, I used to paddle along a narrow waterway through the mangroves and almost disappear. It was magical, being surrounded by nature on all four sides, and inhaling and exhaling with King Neptune and anything else that was above or below the water.

By the way, I just stumbled upon an article in the Irish Times, which exposes Jack Butler Yeats greatest secret in The Secret Life of Jack Yeats. I decided not to ruin the anticipation and highly recommend you read the article itself. Clearly, I am not the only one who found that the various pieces of Jack Yeats which weren’t fitting together very well.

After all this challenging research, I’ve almost run out of steam. However, I’d better get that letter written…

A Letter to Jack Butler Yeats

Dear Jack,

You were quite a letter writer back in your day, so I hope you’ll be pleased to hear from me. I can’t remember exactly why I started writing these Letters to Dead Artists. Of course, I needed some kind of theme for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge and while it’s decimated my capacity to keep up with the day to day, this daily pressure cooker environment does wonders for my writing, and instead of editing my work over and over and over an\gain and filing it in the bottom drawer or my hard drive, it’s post and up on the world wide web. It’s out there. It’s almost turning me into a Woman of Action, although I’m still too much of an over-thinker to get there yet.

Anyway, as I said, I’m not exactly sure why I started writing these letters. I honestly don’t feel like I’m really communicating with the dead and it’s surely not you guys replying back to me and yet there’s stuff popping into these letters which clearly hasn’t come from myself. It’s all a bit of a mystery really, but I’m not the first creative soul who’s experienced “the muse”. Indeed, you wrote:

“The solitary is one with the forces of nature, with which no man can argue; every action and thought of his mind and every feeling comes from sources beyond our utmost ken. And in thus describing the solitary, am I not uncovering what is the essence of that true poetry which I have called the voice of the solitary?”

I have a feeling that when you passed away and crossed over the rainbow bridge as we say about our dog, you took a few pieces out of the puzzle with you so that any nosy parkers like myself who came snooping around in your wake, would only get more and more confused the more they delved into the pot. Indeed, I can’t help wondering whether you completely dismantled or even burned up your studio to maintain your mystique. French artist and sculptor Edgar Degas, who you might’ve known, is regretting not torching his studio, now he’s seen what they’ve done to the Little Dancer. He’s still dropping F bombs and it’s now been a few weeks. He’s even tried to snatch her out of the Louvre to blow her up. I shouldn’t be telling you this because you could become implicated. It’s bad enough I’m in on it.

Anyway, the whole idea of these letters is to ask each artist a question. I guess my question for you, is how focused should an artist, writer, creative person be on the task at hand? Or, should they leave themselves some room to jump off the railway track and even go right off the grid? You achieved so much across a range of fields, that you were clearly able to divide your focus and back a few winning horses at the same time. I often find that I stumble across things and most of my best work has been completely spontaneous. Indeed, this series is a case in point. I simply started out with a list of artists but even that’s changed and I only plucked you out of the hat two days ago out of some inexplicable gut feel. That said, there wasn’t a lot of competition for the letter Y.

Anyway, you’d better join the train with the rest of the rabble. I’m sorry your journey will be so short. There’s only one day to go.

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Letter From William Butler Yeats.

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for your letter. Ezra Pound snatched it straight out of my hands. He calls himself my “Letter Keeper”. Indeed, it’s been a bit tricky because of course I have to keep my correspondence with Punch Magazine a secret and I couldn’t have him knowing that I’m “W. Bird”. Clearly, he’s not very discreet as he’s already published my private letters.

Well, I don’t know if this answers your question, but here goes:

“Reason is a school-master calling his boys into school, imagination is a school master in a happy mood dismissing them to wander in the woods, for the space of that holiday every boy to be his own master. “

Does that help? In my day, we also said you needed to stop to smell the roses. That doesn’t mean you can only smell roses and keep walking past the frangipanni, lavender or wattle blossoms if I’m over your way. It means you’ve got to take time out of the everyday and immerse yourself in nature for awhile. Recharge your soul, just like you people are constantly charging your stupid phones.

Well, I’d better post this before Ezra sees it.

Best wishes,

Jack.

 

 

[1] Passages from the Letters of John Butler Yeats Selected By Ezra Pound. This letter was dated February 6th, 1915

[2] Ibid December 21st, 1914.

[3] Ibid September 6, 1915 p 14.

[4] Ibid April 2nd, 1915 pg 41.

[5] https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/homes-and-property/fine-art-antiques/yeats-painting-with-a-sorry-story-1.2438058

[6] Passages from the Letters of John Butler Yeats Selected By Ezra Pound, 1910. This letter was dated January 6, 1916 p 47.

7. Ibid April 2nd, 1915 pg 43.