Tag Archives: leadership

Australia’s “Women At The Top” – 1961.

Years ago, I stumbled across an intriguing press clipping from the early 60’s about a celebratory dinner: Women at the Top. The timing of this dinner, along with the fact my grandmother, concert pianist Eunice Gardiner, was invited aroused my insatiable curiosity. Who were these women, and what did they do to get to the top?

However, this was long before Australia’s newspapers and magazines had been uploaded, and unfortunately my curiosity ended up in the too hard basket.

That changed last week.

After reading Mark Lamprell’s: The Secret Wife, I found myself thinking about my grandmother’s career again, and I remembered this reference to Women at the Top, only now I had the vast resources of the World Wide Web at my fingers tips to find out more about it. The only trouble was that the information needed to be captured in the first place, and unfortunately, this stellar event received very little media coverage.

From what I’ve been able to piece together, Sydney’s Royal Blind Society hosted Women At The Top on the 8th February, 1961 at the Australia Hotel. It was based on a luncheon held annually in London, Women of the Year. Although it was held as a fundraiser, the dinner’s primary goal was to raise awareness of women’s achievements.

Mary Tenison Woods (who also turned out to be my father’s godmother an enlightened choice for a boy I feel).

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find out much about the identities of these women at the top although it was said: “These women will represent the academic, artistic, literary, professional and business life, as well as the cultural and sporting circles.” It was chaired by lawyer Mrs. Mary Tenison Woods, C.B.E. In 1950, she had been appointed Chief of the Office of the Status of Women in the division of Human Rights, United Nations Secretariat, New York. Mrs Phyllis Burke was the Publicity Officer for the Royal Blind Society. She had a degree in Economics, held membership of the N.S.W. Housing Commission, and also had nine children. The guest speaker was Madame Hélène BurollaudIt, Sales and Technical Director in Paris of the cosmetic firm of Harriet Hubbard Ayer. She was in Australia at the time, and was recommended by the Lintas advertising agency. The only other women mentioned were my grandmother, Eunice Gardiner, aviator Nancy Bird-Walton and the attendance of Lady Amy Woodward,  wife of Lieutenant-General, Sir Eric Woodward, Governor of NSW, 1957-1965. Obviously, that barely touches on the 180 women who attended.

Aviator Nancy Bird-Walton in 1933 – Photo State Library of NSW.

While it at least seems significant to me that this dinner took place in the early 1960’s, the write up it received by Sally Desmond in The Bulletin was equally striking. You would hope that as a woman, she would have been pleased to see this celebration of female talent, and cracks starting to appear in what we now as the glass ceiling. You would hope for zealous enthusiasm and support for the sisterhood, even in the days before “the sisterhood” had possibly even become a term. Instead, she is rather critical, and uses her pen sword to cut the tall poppies down instead. Much to my disgust, she specifically questioned my grandmother’s right to be there: “Miss Eunice Gardiner is a pianist, but having seven children has successfully wiped out any claim she might ever have made to being a top-flight one.” Then, she launched into aviator Nancy Bird-Walton: “Mrs Charles Walton is a pilot, but she doesn’t fly a jet on a regular route.” Please! These seven children hadn’t wiped my grandmother off the face of the earth. She was still giving professional concerts, was a music critic with The Telegraph and was also a Professor of the Piano at the Conservatorium of Music. Moreover, on the 8th November, 1960 (only a year earlier) she’d appeared on ABC TV on a panel interviewing African-American singer, actor and civil rights activist, Paul Robeson on the eve of the election of JF Kennedy. This was a really cutting-edge interview especially for Australia at the time. Meanwhile, Aviatrix Nancy Bird Walton had made a significant contribution to early aviation in Australia. She’d taken her first flying lesson from Charles Kingsford Smith, pioneered outback ambulance services and founded the Australian Women’s Pilots Association.

So, given the questioning and frequently challenging tone of this account of the Women At the Top Dinner, I’ve referenced the full article, and I’d be interested to know your thoughts. I’d also be delighted if anyone knew more about it:

Where is the Top?

When I spoke on the telephone to Mrs Phyllis Burke at Sydney’s Royal Blind Society about covering her “Women at the Top” dinner she was charming but evasive. “You can come beforehand,”she offered. “I can give you a list of the women at the top table. I’m afraid I can’t tell you what the speakers will say.”

Suddenly she broke down. “I’ve had such a lot of trouble with newspaper-women ringing and asking to be invited,” she said unhappily.

“But I’m nobody,” I told her, with a trace of modesty.

“Oh, then,” she said, “do come along! There’ll be a press table where you can have a cup of coffee and sandwiches or a glass of sherry.”

So I went and had a cup of coffee and sandwiches and a glass of sherry while 180 of Sydney’s Women at the Top ate oysters, grilled chicken and pineapple glace flambee and drank Australian wines. It was an awe-inspiring spectacle.

Perhaps what inspired most awe was how those women had got themselves there in the first place.

It was a wet, humid night, but 180 of Sydney’s Women at the Top got into evening dress, then left their husbands comfortably in front of the TV or in front of a long, cold beer. Perhaps some of them left him uncomfortably getting his own dinner or putting the children to bed. Then the Women at the Top had to back the car out of the garage or walk to the station. You can’t park within blocks of the Australia Hotel, so they had to walk, picking up skirts from the wet streets. Most of them had to walk alone, because being at the top is a lonely business!

Although when they arrived many of them seemed to know, or at least recognise, each other. You didn’t see too many peering at the tags with name and Profession which each guest wore.

There were only 180 at the dinner, although it was originally announced that 300 would be invited. Mrs Burke, who does publicity for the Royal Blind Society, and whose varying achievements: a degree in Economics, membership of the N.S.W. Housing Commission and a family of nine, got her to the top table among the Women at the Top, said that 255 had been invited and there were 75 refusals. Whether 75 refused because they were unsure of their own importance or not convinced of the importance of the dinner is an interesting question.

There was a guest of honor, Madame Helene Burollaud, who is sales and technical director in Paris of the cosmetic firm of Harriet Hubbard Ayer. She became guest of honor at the suggestion of Lintas advertising agency, but Lintas was modest about its part in the Women at the Top dinner. “We heard Mrs Burke was organising the dinner for the blind and we thought it would be a good way to get some publicity for Madame Burollaud,” their representative said.

The fee for attending the dinner was three guineas, but, Mrs Burke said, although it was hoped to make money for the blind, the primary purpose of the dinner was to focus attention on women’s achievements.

The Women at the Top all sat down together with only one man in the room, Mr James Hanratty, the head waiter in the Rainbow room. His staff are all women, which might have proved something to the Women at the Top. Mr Hanratty’s nice Irish face grew red and his nice Irish brogue grew more pronounced at the idea of 180 women sitting down to have dinner together.

“Of course, I’ve, had men’s dinners,” Mr Hanratty said, “and I’ve had things like millinery shows here, but half of them are men. I’ve never had all women at dinner before.”

And that was what was mainly wrong with the whole affair. It’s all very well for women to adopt what men like to think are their exclusive callings but why do they have to emulate men’s barbarous habit of one-sex dinners? Men have no social gifts except those poor ones which women after generations have beaten into them. This is called civilisation. Men can sit quite happily like boiled owls at all-male dinners listening to boring speeches, although intelligent men will complain of how gruesome it all is, but why on earth would women try the same caper?

A luncheon would have been much better. Sydney women sparkle at all-women luncheons. They’re a strong tradition and they can be bags of fun, mostly much more fun than all-men equivalents.

Mrs Burke said that the Women at the Top dinner was based on a similar affair held annually in London. But in London it’s a luncheon and it’s called the Women of the Year.

Being at the top sounds so final. What will the selection committee do next year if it does become an annual affair?

Go carefully through the list and see who’s slipped a bit? Or will the same 180 women face each other across the same tables and the same menu of oysters, chicken and pineapple glace flambee for years to come?

Women of the Year sounds much better. If you aren’t one of the women of 1961 you might remember warmly that you were a woman of 1951 or decide that with a bit of luck you might be a woman of 1971 or 1981. Women at the Top sounds so competitive and harsh, and few of the Women at the Top looked competitive or harsh. Many of them were very pretty and most of them were very elegantly dressed.

And most of them looked intelligent enough to question whether they were really at the top and intelligent enough not to worry unduly if they decided they weren’t at the top. After all, where is the top? Mrs Charles Walton is a pilot, but she doesn’t fly a jet on a regular route. Miss Eunice Gardiner is a pianist, but having seven children has successfully wiped out any claim she might ever have made to being a top-flight one.

Some of the Women at the Top didn’t seem to be taking it all too seriously.

But as long as any women take this sort of thing seriously, no one will take them seriously.

SALLY DESMOND

Clearly, Sally Desmond didn’t take the event seriously, and to some degree considered it a failure. That’s a shame, because an opportunity was lost to provide a serious account of what truly was a ground breaking event for the status of Australian women. It would’ve been wonderful to have hear a few quotes from Madame Hélène BurollaudIt’s speech, and more about who actually attended, rather than the paragraphs she wasted talking about their struggle to get to the dinner itself.

Such is life.

A media photo taken of my grandmother with her children in 1960.

It would be wonderful to say that I’d managed to walk in my grandmother’s shoes in some regard. However, I did try to interview her about her career, but by this stage she was in her late 80’s and like most of us, she wondered where the years had gone and who the old lady was staring back at her in the mirror. She was very proud of her achievements and being known as “Melba of the piano” and the “Baby pianist of Bondi”. I always intended to juggle work and family myself, but my health intervened. Indeed, I wasn’t juggling anything, but medical appointments for awhile there. However, I did manage to get appointed to the Status of Women Committee of our local council, whose responsibilities included organising the International Women’s Day March down the main street. I also joined a group: Business and Professional Women (BPW) and was able to fly the flag publicly for a bit there. I haven’t given up, but I’m also aware that a percentage of young men also need to be empowered now. Indeed, all our young people are needing compassion and understanding after covid had made it so difficult for them to study, work, have relationships and essentially be young people.

Anyway, I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena Curtin

As much as I’m not happy with the Queen being Australia’s Head of State, she has long been a working mother and I’ve never heard anyone look at how that might’ve impacted options for women during her reign.

Grit & Determination Onboard the Young Endeavour

“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”

-Vincent Van Gogh

Since our son returned from his voyage onboard STS Young Endeavour, we’ve had so many chats, and I’ve literally been squeezing out every last detail. Strangely, I haven’t even needed to coerce. He’s been surprisingly chatty and responsive to my endless questions. I have an insatiable curiosity, and after being in lockdown or isolation for so long, he was a marked man.

Despite all these stories and conversations, this is how he summed the trip up in a nutshell: “no words can describe the rollercoaster it was”.

Meanwhile, what I would like to say at the outset, is how proud I am of him and all the other Youthies onboard. That’s not just proud Mumma speak. While they had a lot of fun, they had some tough life lessons onboard, particularly when three of their number tested positive to covid three days before they were due to disembark, and had to leave the ship early. It must’ve been devastating for those who left, but the camaraderie among the group meant that it deeply affected them all. They were “one for all, and all for one”, and I was really touched by their empathy and compassion.

So here’s a bit of an overview of some of the challenges our intrepid youthies faced during their voyage.

It’s a long way to the top – the Young Endeavour moored in Geelong. Photo: Geoff Newton

Probably, the most obvious challenge when you first see the Young Endeavour, is height. It’s a very long way to the top of the mast. While I doubt anyone with a serious fear of heights would do the trip in the first place, that’s not to say these daredevils didn’t face some trepidation. While they were up there, they were balanced on nothing more than a wire tightrope, while they furled and unfurled the sails and they were heavy. However, this crew was apparently pretty good, and they had all been up before leaving Port Phillip Bay. Well done!

“The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.”

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

View out the porthole

Another big challenge was also clearly identified before he left. That was no mobile phone, WIFI, Internet…the works! All of these were banned onboard. Surviving without social media probably wasn’t going to be his battle. However, as a gamer, we thought going cold turkey on this front was going to be tough. Yet, he hasn’t mentioned that at all.

“You can never cross the ocean until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Christopher Columbus

Physical fitness was also a serious concern. I’d watched the promotional video and it looked very physical furling and unfurling the sails. It would be too late once they were onboard and had raised the anchor to have second thoughts: “Let me off. I’ve changed my mind!!” They were committed. However, they were not alone. They were going through this very steep learning curve together and they had the “staffies” onboard. They were headed by inspirational Captain Adam “Charlie” Farley who might’ve had his official whites on for boarding and disembarking, but the rest of the time he was wearing the blue shirt like the rest of them and was inspiring alongside rather than from above. (By the way, he was the only one who managed to do a backflip off the boat while they were in Jervis Bay, and apparently he was as smooth as a “swan”.) He also stuck a motivational quote on the fridge every day.

Captain Adam “Charlie” Farley welcoming the “youthies” onboard in Geelong.

“Seasickness: at first you are so sick you are afraid you will die, and then you are so sick you are afraid you won’t die.”

— Mark Twain

Meanwhile, seasickness wasn’t something we’ve given any consideration until we watched the informational videos. Our son has sailed for many years, and has never shown any sign of seasickness before. However, this trip was much more challenging what with crossing Bass Strait and being out at sea. Given that their website had dedicated an entire video to the subject, it wasn’t something to ignore. https://www.facebook.com/YoungEndeavour/videos/1018219102114384

Fortunately, he was only sick once after eating too much breakfast. However, things weren’t pretty for some of the others on Day Two while they were crossing notorious Bass Strait, and the sea was rolling like a Bucking Bronco. Naturally, this wasn’t pretty, and I’ll spare you most of the details. However, he did mention there was a “Red Sea” flowing through the ship, which reminded me of that famous scene from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life featuring Mr Creosote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczPDGC3f8U (watch at your own risk).

Yet, despite their ordeal, the Captain’s Log reported that the youthies still performed their duties, which sounds incredibly commendable. Yet, while it would be easy to feel sorry for them, all of this struggle was what they’d signed up for… throwing themselves against the elements to develop that much desired trait…resilience. Of course, resilience has never been served up on a silver platter, and only comes once you’ve stretched yourself well beyond breaking point. My dad used to call this “putting hair on your chest”. So, all these youthies must be woolly mammoths by now!

However, as bad as the seasickness was for some, there was a popular antidote…the humble Sao biscuit. Our son described them as “the wonder food of seasickness”. Indeed, written underneath the bunk above him were the words: “Saos are king”. In case you’ve never encountered a Sao biscuit, it’s very plain, and would be kind to a troubled tummy. The fact that something as plain and ordinary as a Sao biscuit could save the day, goes to show that a big problem doesn’t necessarily require a big solution.

Youthies on Floral Shirt Friday

Another consideration I had, was how roughly 20 young strangers aged 16 to 23 were going to coexist for nine days in a very confined space without erupting. Being stuck on the same boat for so long could be rather fractious, and I did address this with him before he left. However, it was actually quite the reverse. As I explained earlier, they all got on incredibly well and really looked out for each other. It’s also worth mentioning that they didn’t stay onboard the ship for the full nine days and they broke it up a bit with some activities on land.

Homesickness was another possibility. Our son has been away on Scout camps and Jamboree before, so I wasn’t expecting him to get terribly homesick. However, some of the others were younger and especially with covid around, haven’t been away from home all that much. You don’t have to be a sook to get a bit homesick, especially given the physical challenges of the journey.

In addition to the challenges, our son also shared details of the voyage.

They did a bit of singing onboard. Singing was also a bit of a thing onboard and the Captain’s Log mentioned them singing John Lennon’s Imagine, which must’ve been so moving out there at sea. J. also told me that when they were waking someone up to go on a watch, they sang a variation of The Wiggles’ song: “Toot Toot Chugga Chugga Big Red Car”: “toot toot chugga chugga big blue boat”, and by the end of the voyage, they’d call out: “Wake up Charlie” (the name of the Captain and a reference to Wake up, Jeff also from the Wiggles).

Source: Young Endeavour

He also made a reference to them being told to “use your Navy voice”, and that they had to raise their voices to be heard. That made me laugh. When he was younger, he was always being told to “use his inside voice”, and bring the volume down. How times have changed!

“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.”

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Meanwhile, although I thought the storytelling driving home in the car was amazing, it was nothing compared to having him bring up my good old friend Google Earth and for a virtual experience. He took me from Geelong out through the Heads of Port Melbourne and across the notorious Rip all with a click of the mouse. From there, they’d sailed across Bass Strait where they saw quite a few islands, dolphins and fed a lot of fish. Then, they anchored in Refuge Bay, which was a welcome relief from the rough seas and seasickness. They sailed up along the continental shelf reaching Jervis Bay and then onto Sydney’s Watson’s Bay where I think they spent a few days. They spent their final night moored near Taronga Park Zoo being serenaded by the elephants. I recorded the whole experience, and wished I could’ve been there. Somehow, being a couch sailor isn’t the same.

“To me, the sea is a continual miracle; The fishes that swim–the rocks–the motion of the waves–the ships, with men in them, What stranger miracles are there?”

– Walt Whitman

Me and my boy. Oops I mean man.

These were apparently the Captain’s parting words:

“You leave with new skills, improved persistence, resilience and adaptability, as well as generally knowing you are more capable than what you probably thought. And of course, having made great new friends – most probably, friends for life”

-Captain Adam “Charlie” Farley

There is so much more that could be said, and perhaps I’ve focused a bit too heavily on the hurdles they’ve overcome rather than the fun, especially since one of my motivations is to encourage other young people to sign up. Yet, despite or perhaps because of these hardships, our son has emerged a much more confident and optimistic version of himself with a pile of gripping stories, and a swag of new friends. Indeed, even a week down the track, he still remains exhilarated.

I wonder what it means when you sail into a rainbow…

Lastly, I would like to thank everyone who made this trip not only possible, but also such a success. No doubt so much has gone on behind the scenes, and we are incredibly grateful.

Before I head off, here are a couple of videos you might enjoy and if you or someone you know has been onboard STS Young Endeavour, I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.

Best wishes,

Rowena

https://www.facebook.com/YoungEndeavour/videos/389567701984131

Under the Rainbow… the STS Young Endeavour Returns.

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”

– Jacques Yves Cousteau

Last Wednesday, Geoff and I drove down to Sydney Harbour to welcome back our No. 1 son, who’d been away for ten days sailing on the tall ship STS Young Endeavour from Geelong to Sydney. Indeed, we were waiting at the Coal Loader Wharf near HMAS Waterhen with our eyes peeling looking for the much anticipated ship, when a massive rainbow appeared. I couldn’t believe my luck. I have been in lockdown at home for the best part of six months and right on my release, a rainbow appears, I have my camera, and better still, the Young Endeavour appearing right on cue and I managed to capture it sailing across the rainbow. Better still, our son was perched right at the very top like an oversized crow as they came in. Oh! Be still my beating heart!

Just to recap on the journey, he’d been away on a nine day trip from Geelong to Sydney which, as he said, was pretty much the “Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race in reverse minus Tasmanian.” They sailed out of Geelong on Monday the 20th March. On Day two, they sailed out of Port Phillip Bay, across the notorious Rip and soon they were taking on the even more notorious Bass Strait before heading up the East Coast. They stopped off at Refuge Bay, Jervis Bay and Watson’s Bay along the way before spending their final night anchored near Taronga Park Zoo listening to the elephants.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

Dr Suess

The Young Endeavour sailed right through the end of the rainbow. Wonder if they found the fabled pot of gold?

I can’t tell you how excited I was to see him, the boat, and to finally be a physical part of his experience after being unable to see him off in Geelong. The ship was due in at 10.00am and knowing the Navy, it would be 10.00am sharp, and they certainly wouldn’t be running on Byron Bay time (which is little better than a hair past a freckle). However, my watch hit 10.00am and there was still no sign of the Young Endeavour. The anticipation was absolutely killing me. Thank goodness the rainbow was there to distract me, and we were just hoping the rain would hold off long enough for us to see them come in.

“My big fish must be somewhere.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Then, apparently just a minute or two after ten, the ship’s canon sounded, and STS Young Endeavour finally came into view. There he was – one of those large black birds perched right at the very top of the mast with the daring of a movie stunt double. I couldn’t wait to see him. Give him a hug. Have him back.

However, there was a spanner in the works. An unfortunately all too familiar spanner, which I’d naively thought had been wrestled and dealt with before they’d climbed on board. Three of the “youthies” (as the young people were called) had tested positive to covid despite having had a PCR test and a RAT before leaving (covid seems to be more effective than the devil at sneaking into unwanted places and wreaking havoc). Apparently, the news went up to the Navy “higher-ups”, and after being isolated on the bridge for four hours they were given a “VIP” escort to the big navy base at Woolloomooloo. While it was tough for those whose voyages were cut short, it also hit the remaining youthies really hard. In only seven days, they’d all grown incredibly close. There was no “us and them”, or being focused on No. 1. They’d become a unit and they were welded together like an unbroken chain.

J. onboard the Young Endeavour leaving Geelong.

Of course, I wasn’t there, and it’s an interesting experience writing about someone else’s journey as though it was your own. However, even as a parent of a now 18 year old where the umbilical cord was cut years ago, we’re still Mum and Dad. We’re still interested in what he’s up to, especially when he’s been on such a privileged adventure, and as the Captain mentioned in his first Captain’s Log, we had all become “armchair sailors” back home.

Besides, we’d also gone through the last two years alongside them. I don’t need to explain what this has been like to any of you. We’ve all been living through it. We also had the worst bushfires in living memory just before covid along with it’s choking haze of smoke which travelled the globe several times over before finally breaking up. We haven’t been able to plan, hope, leave the house although many of us tried to make a positive out of a negative and had our “Covid Projects”. On a much more serious note, people have died. Now, places are recovering from devastating floods and there’s the invasion of Ukraine.

So, without going into all our son and these other young people have been through over the last two years, let’s just say that their arrival home, especially surrounded by that massive rainbow, just screamed positivity. Indeed, you can see, I’ve doctored the photo of the ship surrounded by the rainbow, and added the words: “There Is Always Hope”. I’ve come a very long way to reach that point. Indeed, with our son perched high up on the mast, me being there to greet him after more than six months in lockdown, and capturing the photo of a lifetime, it was an incredible triumph.

“My soul is full of longing for the secret of the sea, and the heart of the great ocean sends a thrilling pulse through me.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Day 3 from Refuge Bay, Victoria. J. is second from the left.

I was pleasantly surprised by how chatty he was, and his incredibly enthusiastic and visually graphic storytelling abilities. After all, teenagers aren’t renowned for sharing all the lurid details with Mum and Dad and perhaps there was still a lot he left out. Usually, we’ve ecstatic to get a grunt.

In my next post, I’ll share a few points from his trip, and you never know perhaps he or one of his fellow youthies might share their experiences directly on Beyond the Flow. I live in hope.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Off On The Young Endeavour.

This afternoon at 1600 hours, our son set sail on board the Young Endeavour out of Geelong bound for Sydney on what’s going to be the adventure of a lifetime, and we’ll be collecting him in nine days time in Sydney. Just to put you in the mood, check this video of the trip out: https://www.facebook.com/YoungEndeavour/videos/389567701984131

Our story begins back in January 2017 (now Five years ago), when we went to see the Young Endeavour in Stanley, Tasmania while we were on holidays. Aside from our daughter, we’re a sailing family and my Dad also sails. So, we were pretty keen to check her out.

The Young Endeavour in Stanley January 2017.

However, the weather conditions at the time were pretty treacherous. Stanley is on Bass Strait between Australia and the Australian Mainland, and it gets rough. It also gets very windy, and Stanley was blowing at her best that day. All of this meant we weren’t allowed on board. However, we did have a chance to speak to some of the youth team, and we heard about the ballot system which is used to secure yourself a berth. It all sounded like an unlikely gamble, and what were his chances of being lucky enough to be drawn out of the hat? However, to use another hat analogy again, you’ve got to throw your hat into the ring to stand a chance. I made a mental note to myself to make sure we didn’t forget to apply when he was old enough.

Jonathon in the Australia Day Regatta

Recently, while I was sorting through some paperwork, I came across the postcard we’d picked up in Stanley and places were open. I didn’t need a second thought. I was filling out the paperwork online and I can’t even remember whether I asked him about it. I probably did. However, a set of car keys was missing at the time, and he was otherwise occupied. Besides, I didn’t really expect him to be offered a place straight away, and if he was ever going to be lucky enough to get a spot, it might take a few years. However, the very next day I received an email. He was in. He was really excited and thrilled to be doing it. So, it was full speed ahead.

There was just one very small minor detail which remained. He had to pass a PCR covid test last Friday, and what I didn’t know, is that he also needed to pass a RAT this morning before he could board. So, there was every chance that after winning the lottery to get a spot, he might be let down just as he was about to board. Fortunately, I think they all passed, but wouldn’t that have been awful to have your dream go up in smoke like that at the last minute?!! (Covid has a lot to answer for!!) However, that was all good, and at 3.00pm (known as 1500 hours in Navy lingo) he climbed on board.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t be there in person because Miss had a dance audition locally. However, Geoff compensated very nicely by having me on FaceTime and I was standing with him dockside watching him climb on board, having a bit of a welcome ceremony including introductions, and then they raised the gangplank, untied the ropes and motored off into the pending sunset. (I must say I was surprised a replica of The Endeavour came with a motor, but I bet there are lots of mod cons on board belying the outward appearance and history of the ship.)

The Young Endeavour, Geelong, at sunset over the weekend.

The ship itself is under the command of members of the Royal Australian Navy, but the young sailors or “Youthies” as they’re called, are trained up along the way and on the final day, they take charge of the ship, which sounds both thrilling and terrifying. In addition to the regular staff and the youth, there are also two naval staff doing a “suitability voyage”. Staff are assigned to the Young Endeavour for 18 months to two years, and they’re on board to see if they’d like it, and there was a comment: “No pressure guys. Just a ten day interview”. I was also pleased they have a navigator on board, even though poor Mister has been needing to give his grandmother and myself directions since he was just a little tacker.

In addition to all the sailing aspects of the trip, there are also some additional details which, as my Dad used to say will “put hair on his chest”. First and foremost, they’re not allowed to access their mobile phones on board. Now, just think about how that would impact most of us. For many, it could well be on par with giving up smoking cold turkey. Mister is also a gamer. So, none of that for a week either. Now, you’re talking about serious deprivation. However, the flipside of that will be liberty, conversation and face-to-face interaction. They’ll also be climbing straight up a vertical cliff metaphorically speaking but they’re all in it together, which should foster strong bonds. However, after nine days, probably also some irritation factor too. I hope they all packed their deodorant.

For those of you with an interest in sailing, adventure, or just want to keep up with the trip, the Captain does a Captain’s Log every night which goes live at 22:00 Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEST). Here’s the link: https://youngendeavour.gov.au/the-voyage/captains-log

I also thought you might appreciate this Youtube video where Lieutenant-Commander Andrew “Kenny” Callandar, Commanding Officer gives some wise tips on leadership skills. It starts out with “Don’t be someone you’re not”. Great advise for us all really. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQXkICIWtVQ&list=PLLPshwXEivQ2logIPpZ7dukcDpSvJuz9Y&index=1

By the way, for those of you who are new to the blog, I should explain that I’ve been writing this blog for ten years from when Mister was eight and Miss was six. I didn’t want to use their actual names, and these alternatives seemed to fit quite well back then. However, he recently turned 18, and he clearly needs an update. I’m working on it.

Lastly, if any of you have been on board the Young Endeavour and have any stories to share, I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Applauding The Accompanist

We glorify our winners. Raise them up on the dais, and quite rightly hang golden medals around their necks. Who hasn’t heard of Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, Novak Djokovic, Ash Barty, Chris Hemsworth, Nicole Kidman? Who hasn’t had goosebumps, and been totally transformed by an incredible performance on violin, or any other instrument, yet barely acknowledged the accompanist was there?

Gold medallists also give a lot back. My daughter is wearing Kate Campbell’s gold medal from the London Olympics at a charity event.

I know I’m certainly guilty as charged.

A true accompanist is an interesting creature. While they might also be a performer, and capable of truly incredible feats in their own right, that’s not what they’re there for. Rather, a true accompanist serves to bring out the best in the performer, and might even compensate for their weaknesses and mistakes while claiming none of the glory. My violin teacher used to do this when we performed in concerts, and my mother is a piano accompanist who has accompanied singers and musicians in later life out of nothing more than kindness. Never asked a penny. Meanwhile, as she played the piano, she might teach them the correct German pronunciation for the German songs, or how to read music, which had nothing to do with playing the piano, but also helped to bring out their best. It is also what our son does when he is on sound.

What’s brought all this to mind? While working towards my son’s 18th Birthday photo book and slide show, I was looking through our ski photos from 2013 and there I was achieving my mission impossible. Instead of climbing Mt Everest and going up the mountain which wasn’t a possibility with my muscle weakness issues, I decided to go down the mountain instead.

As you can see, I made it down the mountain (if you can call Perisher a mountain, but I’ll conveniently overlook that I wasn’t skiing down the Swiss Alps and rest on my laurels. Perisher was steep and terrifying enough for me!!) However, what you might not notice in that photo on first inspection, is there’s a blue man further up the hill. He is no coincidence. Rather, that’s Tom, my Adaptive Ski Instructor, who I accessed via the Disabled Winter Sports’ Association. He’s not wearing any gold medals, or receiving any acknowledgement of his selfless capacity to get behind me, and extend my capacity. Enable me not only to get to the bottom, but to even make a start. I remember getting off the chairlift and standing at the top and looking down, something you should never do. OMG!!! It was terror on steroids, particularly as the bit at the start was very steep. Again, it wasn’t the Swiss Alps, but compared to the very gentle slope on the magic carpet, it was vertical. So what did Tom do? He held my hands or maybe it was my poles but he went backwards down this scary bit so I could go forwards. Obviously, that wasn’t a big deal for him, but it meant the world to me. It enabled me to get started, and feel so supported and encouraged and have a go despite my overwhelming fear, and my physical disability. I am incredibly grateful, and hope in turn that I might be able to give someone else what he gave me in someway. What my violin teacher also gave me. Someone who enhances your light, and is overjoyed to stand in your shadow as you strut forward, and never tries to cut you down to make themselves look good. After all, it’s all about you, not about them. Although you might be paying for their services, the money spent bears no correlation to who they’ve enabled you to become.

Violin Concert 2015.

Obviously, being an accompanist is a rather under-rated role. It’s a rather subtle unappreciated form of leadership, which goes on behind the scenes to build other people up on the quiet. However, while we’re drawn like magnets to the stars, but a true star will always defer to the source of their light.

Have you ever been an accompanist for someone else is some way? Or, perhaps you’ve accompanied someone else? What are your thoughts? Is there something you’d like to add?

Best wishes,

Rowena

Visiting the Young Endeavour, Stanley.

Continuing on with our travels through Tasmania, last Saturday, we drove down to Stanley to see a magnificent tall ship, the  Young Endeavor a Royal Australian Navy sail training ship

The Young Endeavour Scheme began when the magnificent sail training ship STS Young Endeavour was given to the people of Australia by the United Kingdom as a Bicentennial gift back in 1988. Since then, the Scheme, in partnership with the Australian Government and the Royal Australian Navy, has provided challenging training voyages for over 11,000 young Australians aboard Young Endeavour.

To be selected, young Australians can put their names in the ballot. No previous sailing experience is required and it is the opportunity of a life time.

With our family’s interest in sailing and history, we were looking forward to being able to climb onboard and check it out.

Unfortunately, very heavy winds picked up and we were unable to board the ship.

However, we did get the opportunity to meet and listen to former crew as well as a young lady who is was leaving on it the next day. Neither had any prior sailing experience and apparently they teach you everything you need to know onboard. I found that that both encouraging and a bit scary but they know what they’re doing. The experience is well known for improving self-confidence, resilience and problem-solving in young people and it really is the opportunity of a lifetime…especially climbing straight up the mast and clinging on for dear life while the boat rocks to and fro.

Humph, they can keep that experience.

As much as I would’ve loved to do this back in the day, I’m quite happy to stick to plain sailing these days.

Xx Rowena

The Makings of a Leader-Jacqueline Du Pré, Cellist.

 “The signs of outstanding leadership appear primarily among the followers. Are the followers reaching their potential? Are they learning? Serving? Do they achieve the required results? Do they change with grace? Manage conflict?”

-Jacqueline Du Pré, Cellist.

Photo: Jacqueline du Pré, cello. Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Sergiu Сеlibidache, conductor 1967

 

Yippee! Accepting the Versatile Bloggers Award.

I would like to thank Kim Gosselin from Chronic Conditions and Life Lessons Along the Way for nominating me for the Versatile Bloggers Award. I was so excited. This is my first blogging award. I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading her blog at: at http://kimgosselinblog.com/.

For more information about the Versatile Bloggers Award please click here: http://versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com/about/

Rowena sea steps

Me!

The rules of acceptance for this award are to share 7 interesting facts about yourself in addition to nominating 15 other bloggers for this award.

  1. Like many babies born in July 1969, I was due to be born on the 20th July, the day that man first landed on the moon. It turned out that man might have been able to land on the moon but my father wasn’t allowed to attend my birth. The 60s were definitely complicated.
  2. I come from Sydney, Australia and currently live on the NSW Central Coast.
  3. I am married to Geoff and we have two children: Mister aged 10 and Miss who is 8. We have two dogs. Bilbo is an 8 year old Border Collie and Lady is a 2 years old Border Collie x King Charles Cavalier Spaniel.
  4. I have been serious about writing ever since my mum taught me to spell enthusiastic when I was 11 and gave me a thesaurus. Daggy but true, I have always loved reading the thesaurus and sometimes even the dictionary but I’ve never played with a calculator.
  5. I really love antiques and vintage anything and have quite a collection of antique teacups. Both my grandmothers cherished their collection of exquisite and mismatched teacups. I particularly love Shelley and Royal Albert. The collection started in the cabinet and has since escaped throughout the house. This passion bordering on obsession lures me into all sorts of what we in Australia know as “op shops” or charity shops despite the fact that our house is all ready busting at the seams.
  6. Before my mid 20s, I’d thought I was a picture of health. Had never been to hospital.That all changed when I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain when I was 25 and had surgery to insert a shunt which blocked. Had a year off work and rehab. Bad luck returned after the birth of our second child when I developed a severe auto-immune disease where my muscles attack themselves resulting in muscle weakness and loss. This disease started to attack my lungs and I had chemo to treat it last Christmas which has been effective but have trouble with chemo brain. My health is a fairly constant battle but in the words of Split Enz, I manage to stay “one step ahead”…sometimes only just.
  7. Four of my favourite quotes:

John Lennon: “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Calvin Coolidge
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr

 

Congratulations! Here are the 15 blogs which I am nominating for the Versatile Blogger Award. I highly recommend each of them and if you’ve been nominated, why don’t you also check out the other blogs on my list.There are a few life lessons, dog stories,travel and more.

Leadership Freak:   http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/

Smorgasboard- Variety is the Spice of Life: http://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/

Within the K Streets: http://withinthekstreets.wordpress.com/

Outside the Lines: http://segmation.wordpress.com/

Humans are Weird: http://humansareweird.com/

Just so you Know: http://trinabartlett.wordpress.com/

Art Lark: http://artlark.org/

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

Little Steps   http://motherslittlesteps.com/

Goan Imports: http://goanwiki.com/

Christian Mihai: http://cristianmihai.net/

Lethargic Smiles: http://lethargicsmiles.wordpress.com/

One Mountain At A Time: http://savannahhardcastle.wordpress.com

Butterfly Mama: http://butterflymumma.com/

Give Me Five Minutes A Day and I’ll give you a happier, more successful life!  http://bradstanton.com/

You’ve Been Nominated…Now what?

For more information about the Versatile Bloggers Award please click here: http://versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com/about/

I had trouble uploading the image so follow the directions on the award site and paste this into the image URL box:
http://versatilebloggeraward.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/versatile-blogger.jpg?w=145&h=150