Don’t know whether it’s Mother’s Day in your neck of the woods, but it has been here and I have a large bunch of flowers on the kitchen bench, and we had various delicious snacks, German Bee Sting Cake and white chocolate rocky road. We had a low key Mother’s Day, because I slept through half of it, and my parents are keeping a low profile still avoiding covid, although we did have some lengthy conversations on the phone. Of course, it’s not the same, but hopefully we’ll get down there soon.
I had a bit of a Mother’s Day tribute in my previous post.
Well, I have to tell you it’s getting chilly around here now. The weather isn’t always the best judge of the seasons around here, but the end of daylight savings is usually the death knell to Summer. Just to put you in the picture, the weather is expected to range from 11-18 degrees Celsius today. That’s cold. Anything below ten is FREEZING!!
This weekend, Geoff and I drove over to Hardys Bay to watch the sunset. As you can see, it’s a truly magnificent spot. While we love and appreciate our own beach, it’s always good to mix it us and this little patch is emerging as a really special place for us. It is so incredibly tranquil there. I don’t know whether that’s a function of it being on still water rather than the surf, but I can easily lose track of hours sitting there watching and photographing the sunset talking with Geoff. Indeed, it felt totally timeless. Indeed, I’d have to say we’d finally managed to relax into human beings instead of human doings (or in my case it’s often a “gunna do”.) We went over there yesterday and went on quite a long walk (at least for me), and we went back today to drive further round to Pretty Beach but we loved Hardys Bay so much we headed back and parked ourselves at the end of the jetty feasting on spiced nuts. The sunset seemed to last forever and more and more colour somehow managed to leak out. I was a very happy snapper.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my future lately. It’s a future I didn’t think I’d have a few years ago, and I didn’t really give a lot of thought to going back to work because time was short and my family mattered most, and my writing and research interests were intellectually stimulating and probably even more so than most jobs. My kids have also needed me around, but that didn’t prevent me from working part-time. However, then covid hit and my health situation has meant I’ve spent much of the last 2.5 years in isolation and trying to stay alive on that front has been very draining too. It’s been a war zone for vulnerable people like myself, especially when you’re living with family who are out and about and could bring it home. However, the extra income would be good and I’m think work might give me a bit more grounding and direction. I’ve been feeling a bit lost lately. Then again, there have been so many changes, it’s not surprising. Our daughter s now halfway through her second last year at school, and I’m also wondering if I should just wait until she’s done. She’s got her school work, heavy dance commitments and working at McDonalds. I could continue on with my WWI research and get that polished off in the meantime. I’m going to pray about it. That’s not another way of saying I’m going to sit on the fence, procrastinate or do nothing. I don’t really have strong views either way. Have you had to go through this process and how did you go about it?
Well, I think I might head off.
How has your week been? I hope you’ve had a good one.
“The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.”
Honore de Balzac
“Having kids — the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings — is the biggest job anyone can embark on.”
“All that I am, or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”
“We are born of love; Love is our mother.”
“When you look into your mother’s eyes, you know that is the purest love you can find.”
“Women, who struggle and suffer pain to ensure the continuation of the human race, make much tougher and more courageous soldiers than all those big-mouthed freedom-fighting heroes put together.” ― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
Just wanted to honour Mother’s Day today with some photos of me with my Mum, my grandmothers and with our kids. Relationships tend to be much more complex than Hallmark sentiments, and our relationships with our mother’s are often fraught and go through the wringer….as do our relationships with our children. A mother gives birth to us, but this may not be the person who raises us and we know to be mother. There are also so many mothers who have lost their babies, and today brings an unfathomable and often very private grief. Many have lost their mums, and many way too soon before they had a chance to grow up. I’m sorry. I had friends who passed away last year, and left their kids behind, which goes against every instinct you’ve got as a mum. However, they had no say in that. It is what it is. Isn’t that the phrase we apply to unfathomable, inexplicable pain?!!
For me, I’ll be grateful for the good today. I thank my mother for being my Mum, and I’m sorry and regret I didn’t always know or understand how much she loved me, or that she understood me better than I ever gave her credit for. However, I am lucky that it’s not too late, and I can’t help wondering whether there is even that opportunity to make amends, and that they might just hear us from heaven. We don’t know.
Lastly, let Holocaust survivor, Eddie Jaku, have the last words. I read his book: The Happiest Man On Earth last week:
“I try to teach this to every young person I meet. Your mother does everything for you. Let you know you appreciate her, let her know that you love her. Why argue with the people you love? Go out on the street, stop a person littering and argue with them. There are a million better people to argue with than your mum.”
How are you? I hope you’ve had a great week, and if I’d remembered to clock on yesterday I’d be able to offer you some Apple Slice or Banana Cake. However, they’re all gone now. So, life’s pretty tough. You’re stuck with the Tim Tams.
I’m really not too sure what happened last week. There was a serious incident at my daughter’s school, and that took over the rest of the week, and I was left scrambling to return to some kind of equilibrium. Fortunately, I seem to be there now, and hope to get out for a good solid walk this afternoon, because I’ve been falling behind on that front with all the rain.
Fortunately, a friend had recommended reading Eddie Jaku’s: The Happiest Man On Earth. It was just what the wellbeing doctor would’ve ordered because his fundamental message is that even in the darkest of places, there is always hope, and even human kindness. BTW I should’ve mentioned that Eddie was a German Jew who was on the run from the Nazi’s during WWI and ended up in Auschwitz. Ironically, he came across a close friend there, and this friendship proved critical in his survival. It’s a really important read, with so many incredible pearls. After all, the best pearls are pieces of wisdom, not jewels.
Meanwhile, I finished reading Mark Lamprell’s novel: The Secret Wife and launched into a bit more reading about women and work in the 1960’s. I ended up reading through articles from the Australian Women’s Weekly, which were really interesting and I’m slowly posting a few of them. By the way, I’d also like to point out that these changes don’t just relate to women but our whole society, and are ongoing. It’s been good for me to see what we are living through now, and me personally through the lens of where we’ve been. There’s this one: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2022/05/01/working-women-in-1960s-an-insight/
I also followed up a dinner that was held in Sydney in 1961 for Women At the Top. My grandmother was one of the women who attended, but I didn’t know much more about it. Fortunately, we now have the world wide web at our fingertips, and I was able to fish out a really challenging story about it. The journalist was quite antagonistic towards the event and who these women at the top might be. It was definitely a case of trying to cut the tall poppies down. Here’s that link: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2022/05/02/australias-women-at-the-top-1961/
By the way, I hadn’t really thought about this before, but isn’t Queen Elizabeth the most high profile working mother in the world?!! Interesting.
Well, I’d better head off now. Hope you’ve had a good week.
If you go digging through my archives, you’ll notice that despite being a self-confessed book addict, I rarely write book reviews. That’s because I’m unfortunately more of a book collector than a voracious book reader. Of course, I have good intentions, and get carried away on the wings of fancy, but all too often the rubber doesn’t hit the road.
Anyway, today I’m breaking with tradition because I’ve just finished reading Mark Lamprell’s: The Secret Wife, and I’m too excited to keep it to myself. I absolutely loved it, and thought you might love it too. I rarely read non-fiction, and despite my best intentions, have often failed to finish even novels I love. So, the fact I was sticking matchsticks in my eyes to stay awake and finish this book, is a very strong endorsement. Indeed, to quote Australian music legend Molly Meldrum: “Do yourself a favour”, and read this book.
So, what was so good about it?
For me personally, I’m Australian and I enjoy stories from my own backyard, as well as reading foreign literature. Indeed, I suspect each of us likes to see our own world reflected back to us through the arts, as much as we also appreciate a more cosmopolitan diet. Yet, at the same time, it wasn’t consciously Australian and would easily translate elsewhere.
Secondly, I really appreciated the highly developed characterisation with his profound understanding of human nature. The storyline hinges on the friendship of two very different women, Edith and Frankie, their husbands and children and is mostly set in the 1960’s. Naturally, as characters in a novel, they go through many ups and downs, dramas, catastrophes and successes. Lacking in self-confidence myself too often, I related very strongly to Edith even though I’m a born extrovert and would’ve loved to be Frankie in my dreams.
I also really appreciated how Lamprell handled the interaction of this wily cast with the finely-tuned precision of a symphony conductor, yet with casual realism. There were times the characters became people I know, but I also felt Mark knew me like the back of his hand. I’m sure I got goose bumps more than once.
Another point I greatly appreciated about the book was Mark’s dynamic and complex vocabulary. Not all writers appreciate words, but I love words with a passion and am quick to take my hat off to those who make the effort (or even flourish). My kids have told me off for writing in books, but I always read books with a pen in hand, and my pen was very busy throughout (which is a great sign, btw.) I even jotted a few words in the back.
It is also worth noting that The Secret Wife is a historical novel. I was touched and impressed by Lamprell’s eye for detail and accuracy. It’s so easy to Google these things now, that there’s no excuse for getting them wrong. There is just enough detail to add flavour and authenticity, but not too much to bog you down.
All of that makes me sound intensely critical and punctilious (to steal a word from Mark). However, what we’re all looking for is a gripping story. A tale which draws us in and keeps throwing us bait until we’re caught hook, line and sinker. Where we can’t put the book down, yet we don’t want the book to end either. That is certainly true of The Secret Wife. The plot is also refreshingly unpredictable. He leads us up one path, and then we are taken somewhere else entirely, although not left alone lost in the dark either.
I know I’m saying a lot without saying much at all about this book. That’s because I know how much I hate spoilers. I just want a “yay” or a “nay”, and something to back it up. Yet, I’m busting to talk to someone about it.
However, I’m also into biography. So, once I like a book, or fancy an author, I want to delve into their head, their heart, their past, present…the works. (Indeed, I’ve been doing just that with author Ethel Turner over at my other blog Tea With Ethel Turner.) So this leaves me asking: “Who is Mark Lamprell?” and I suppose you might be wondering the same thing, and why I read: The Secret Wife, especially when I could’ve been reading your blog posts and works of fiction instead…
Well, the official answer is: “Mark Lamprell is an (Australian) writer of novels and children’s books published in sixteen countries and twelve languages, including the novels The Full Ridiculous and A Lover’s Guide to Rome. He also works internationally as a writer and director in film, with movie credits including Babe Pig in the City, My Mother Frank, Goddess, A Few Less Men and Never Too Late.“
However, for me, Mark Lamprell was also my uncle’s school friend. My dad was one of seven, and being the eldest grandchild, I was only ten and eleven years younger than my youngest uncles. So, it wasn’t unusual for me to be down at the house when their friends were around. Moreover, their house was a sprawling Californian bungalow. None of the doors were ever locked, and people simply came and went. Oftentimes, we’d be gathered around the kitchen table philosophising. One would be having breakfast, another lunch and someone else having a snack. It was definitely laissez-faire, although there were still non-negotiables like my grandfather wanting my uncle to get his hair cut.
Yet, as I’ve mentioned before, my grandmother was Eunice Gardiner, an international concert pianist, music critic and later professor piano at the NSW Conservatorium of Music. In the loungeroom, there was her Bechstein grand piano, and after my grandfather passed away, it was joined by a large concert-sized Steinway grand, which she’d brought out from England. Having two large grand pianos in your lounge room, certainly makes a statement.
So, the house had this sort of dichotomy, and that fits in very well with Frankie’s world in The Secret Wife. Moreover, like Frankie, there was so much we didn’t know about my grandmother’s career, and who she was. Indeed, I venture to suggest that everyone probably has their secrets. Things even our nearest and dearest know nothing about.
While The Secret Wife and I were obviously a very good fit, I ended up reading it because the publisher sent me a copy to review. I was attending a novel writing workshop with Graeme Simsion (author of The Rosie Project who I’ve reviewed before). I mentioned that I’d attended a similar workshop with Mark Lamprell at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, and the publicist said she’d send me a copy of his new book. I was delighted, and mentioned he was a family friend. The book duly arrived, and I thought I’d better read it tout de suite to honour the deal. No forgetting to read this book. By this time, I picked up an extra 38 “friends” at the Pearl Beach Book Sale. So, it wasn’t that The Secret Wife was without competition. I clearly needed to get reading.
However, reading The Secret Wife now was mind-blowing timing. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by historian, Ann Curthoys, who let me know that back in 1960 my grandmother had appeared on an ABC TV panel interviewing Paul Robeson, an African-American singer, actor and civil rights activist and soon of a former slave when he toured Australia in November 1960. The interview covered racism, equality and freedom and was recorded on the 5th November, 1960. Three days later, JF Kennedy defeated Nixon in the US presidential election, and it was broadcast on the 13th November, 1960. It was just under three years before Dr Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which followed a march by over 200,000 people on Washington on the 28th August, 1963. I was able to order a copy of the interview, and have been working on a transcript. I am gobsmacked.
So, reading: The Secret Wife which is set in this similar social context, was an incredible fusion. However, my grandmother was leading a different life to anyone really what with her prodigious talent and being married with seven children and still pursuing her career. But I think she just had this trajectory in her mind and it just kept going. She probably knew nothing else.
As for my grandfather, there was a miniature grand piano on their wedding cake. So, I doubt he had any illusions. My grandmother, her piano and her career were a package deal. There was never any suggestion she was going to stop.
Wow! There’s been so much to think about, and more to come. For now, I’m going to let the book settle. I really want to talk it over, and share it with someone (something I obviously can’t do in a review.) Maybe, I’ll start talking to myself.
PS One thing I didn’t mention was that my grandfather was the consummate book collector and my grandparents’ house was overflowing out the back and under the house with boxes, and boxes of books. Indeed, when my grandparents first got married, my grandfather’s mother sent over his books to their new home, and they apparently arrived even before the furniture.
Don’t you just love family stories?!!
Featured image: Geoff Newton. Thank you Zac the dog for posing for the camera. Since he spends much of his life sleeping underneath my keyboard and while I was reading the book, it seemed appropriate for him to appear in the photo.
Breastfeeding their first-born son in a derelict squat, Maria thought of Our Lady giving birth to baby Jesus in a stable. Things were grim, but not without hope. If love was enough, baby Thomas could soar to the moon and back. Be invincible.
Then, the crucifying doubts set in.
“Who am I kiddin’? If I can’t save meself, what hope does me baby have?”
She wrapped him up in her only blanket, and kissed him goodbye.
“There’s no greater love, than heart-wrenching sacrifice,” they said.
Wishing you a Happy and Blessed Easter and Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share! Easter was very low key and virtually non-existent at our place this year, because I fell at my daughter’s dance competition last Wednesday and for some reason haven’t been feeling right ever since in ways that go well beyond the sore foot.
The dance competition was intense on steroids both in terms of how incredibly talented, moving and beautiful each and every ones of these dances was, but also in terms of the huge amount of physical and emotional energy it demanded from each of the dancers, their teachers and parents. Miss competed in seven dances I think, which really was a phenomenal effort especially when you factor all the costume changes and steps involved. It’s mind-blowing and I really don’t know how she does it, except she’s been doing it since she was three, and it is her absolute passion and calling. I doubt this is something you can even consider going into half-mast.
The life of a dancer is thwart. There are days where all your ducks line up andeverything goes your way. However, there are also times when it can completely fall apart, which we haven’t really experienced. While I’m a Christian, I still suspect there’s a Lord of the Dance out there too, who is either for or against you on the day. It’s almost like you need to leave a burnt offering on the altar outside when you go in. Well, of course, I didn’t do that, but I did pray that she would come first before she did her classical ballet solo with her new tutu and routine. I wrote a note to myself: Is it wrong to pray for your daughter to come first with her ballet solo? The other dance mums I conferred with thought it was fine, and were equally enthusiastic to see her perform, which was absolutely delightful and made my day. There’s inexpressible joy, but it can get a bit foreboding, and I can’t even begin to describe what goes through your mind while you’re sitting there. However, her dance went beautifully and she won. She has won other sections before, but this meant so much more. She was competing in the open section which is the highest level, but what it meant was that she’s on track for reaching her dream of becoming a ballerina. It was a resounding: “YES!!!” (although she still has such a long way to go!!)
Of course, I was proud. However, my overriding emotion was relief and pure joy!
However, somehow this ridiculously compulsive book addict managed to make it to the the local Pearl Beach Book Sale on Saturday. Trust me. For a book addict like yours truly, it’s up there on a temptation level right alongside a chocolate shop. Moreover, since all the Easter eggs had virtually sold out by Thursday according to my husband, feasting on books it is.
The other drawcard about this Pearl Beach Book Sale is that the books are top notch. Pearl Beach is a rather exclusive retreat, and attracts a lot of creative people, who seem to have great taste in reading material. I arrived mid-afternoon, and I don’t know how much the books were at the outset, but I was paying $2.00 each. Of course, this was an absolute steal. So, it didn’t make too much sense to be too selective. It was more a case of fill a box, another box, and while you’re thinking about it, why don’t you fill this one too. The irony of all this was that I’m actually in the process of seriously downsizing our book collection, and the boot of the very same car I drove to the book sale, was full of books I’m planning to drop off for the next book sale at the local PCYC.
Another issue is that I am not a voracious book reader. I read a lot doing my history research. However, that’s mainly involved old newspapers online. I also read blog posts. I also do a few Bible studies and try to read my Bible daily. So, it’s not like I’m not reading at all. I’m just not one of those people who polish off a couple of novels a week. Geoff was doing that without any dramas when he was commuting to work on the train. However, he’s been working from home for the last two years. So, he’s reading has dropped off a lot. He’s just finished reading a Harlan Coben novel: Hold Tight. Have you read it? We’ve been making our way through a few TV series based on his novels. I mostly love them, although there was one that I felt had too much violence, and was just too seedy. I managed to pick up another Harben Coben at the book sale: Just One Look.
Meanwhile, we didn’t really celebrate Easter. I haven’t been well since my fall last week, and my dad had surgery last week and we thought we’d leave it a week or two. Yesterday, was also my brother’s 50th birthday and he didn’t mind when we got together. However, I did spend last night going through my photos and fishing him out. I might actually manage to get this photo attempt printed up.
Anyway, I hope you and yours had a Happy and blessed Easter.
Love and blessings,
All dance photos were taken by Emily Stoddart Photography.
How are you all? I hope you are all well, and I thought you might like to join my friend Heather and I at a local live music venue called Link & Pin at Woy Woy. I used to go to this venue in it’s previous incarnation as a cafe and florist with my mother and kids. It’s just across the road from the train station and was particularly good when we were doing an exchange with the kids when they were younger. I think it was closed for a bit while it was being renovated and along came covid. We still have covid, but we’re supposed to be quite comfortable hanging out with covid everywhere we go, and believing it will be little more than a sniffle if we do get it. I like this venue because it’s outdoors. Well, that’s from a covid perspective. However, I also like listening to music in a relaxed smoke-free easy going venue and it also has plenty of personality or character. It’s the sort of place I’d expect to find perhaps in Sydney’s inner city around Glebe perhaps. Or, at least, the Glebe I used to know many years ago now where I used to watch a band called Paris Dumper at the Naggs’ Head on a Friday night. However, that was several lifetimes ago.
The band we saw today was called the Blind Pilots. I have no idea how they came by the name, and I guess I should be grateful that I was hearing them perform at Link & Pin and not hearing the announcement: “Your Captains today are the blind pilots”. Whether they can’t see or they’re incredibly drunk, you don’t want them flying you anywhere! Anyway, I enjoyed their music and anybody who’s known me for awhile would be surprised to see me there. I’m more of a classical violinist and tend to play Bach, and I’ve also spent much of the last week watching my daughter dance at the studio during open week. I’m actually surprised I had any watching capacity left, but being part of the audience isn’t a passive activity. It’s interactive and you need to give back to the performers as well. Not just clap at the end on autopilot either, but get into it. Smile, observe, indeed, absorb the whole experience. You might even tap your foot, and as long as Geoff isn’t with me, it doesn’t matter if I have terrible rhythm.
I can actually understand why I enjoyed going to a band today. Last week, I received a message that my grandmother had been part of a TV interview panel when singer Paul Robeson visited Australian in 1960, and I contacted the ABC archives and they sent me the file. I did know that she’d performed with Paul Robeson in London in the late 1930s but I knew nothing about him. Well, that’s all changed. He was a world famous Afro-American singer and actor who had also qualified as a lawyer. Yet, his father had been a slave who escaped in his teens and fought for the North in the Civil War and went on to become a pastor. Paul Robeson developed close ties with the Soviet Union and even sent his son to school there for awhile because it didn’t have the racism present in the United States. Unfortunately, this put him under the microscope during the 1950’s in the McCarthy era. His passport was withdrawn for ten years. The interview was recorded on the 5th November, 1960, and broadcast 13th November, 1960. To give you some idea of the context of the interview, three days after the recording on the 8th November, 1960 the US elections were held and JFK won the US presidency against then US Vice-President Richard Nixon. Harper Lee’s novel: To Kill A Mockingbird was published on the 11th July, 1960, although it didn’t seem to attract attention in Australia until after the movie was released. It was just under three years before Dr Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech which followed a march by over 200,000 people on Washington on the 28th August, 1963. Anyway, it was quite interesting, astounding even, to see my grandmother, who was an international concert pianist and music critic on this panel. I decided the interview was so important that I decided to transcribe it verbatim and now I’m regretting it. It’s all so complex, and every word is so important and has to be exact. No “near enough is good enough” unfortunately. I’ve written it out. Typed it up and now I’m at the gruesome checking stage and there’s still writing all over the page. Yet, there are so many pearls in there just not about equality, but also musical composition, and every now and then I fancy myself as a song writer and he’s right into the pentatonic scale, which is sort of a musician’s ABC. Oh well. I am starting to believe ignorance is bliss. Or, that I can just stick to the words while someone else takes care of the tune. Or, I can just keep researching with writing up my results getting 95% of the way and finding it all a bit too hard and exiting stage left. BTW I am actually working on that!
Meanwhile, I’ve done two posts about our son’s trip onboard the Young Endeavour.
Prior to trying to transcribe this TV interview, I was working on collating my 100 word flash fiction efforts. That’s going fairly well. Here is this week’s contribution to Friday Fictioneers:
Anyway, our daughter is on school holidays for the next two weeks. There’s a dance competition this week, and then we have Easter next weekend.
Well, that’s left you all with an eclectic array of things to explore. Meanwhile, for those of you who celebrated Easter, I wish you a blessed Easter.
“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.
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
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.
“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.
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).
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
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
Miracles do happen! We are experiencing two consecutive days of sunshine and I’m almost beside myself after that eternity of rain. I’m surprised I’m not outside soaking up some rays, but I have a few things to do, and even in Autumn the midday sun can be a bit much, and I’ll head out later this afternoon.
So, what tickles your fancy? Tea, coffee or something more exotic?
How was your week?
Last week, was pretty incredible for me.
The excitement and dramas began last Monday night when we received a surprise call from our son onboard the Young Endeavour. He wasn’t allowed to use his phone onboard and they had no WIFI access, so we weren’t expecting to hear from him at all while they were away. Of course, that should’ve alerted me to something being wrong. However, he was in good spirits and it wasn’t one of the “Navy Higher-ups” calling on his behalf to say he’d fallen from the top of the mast and was incapacitated. However, the news wasn’t good and I should’ve been expecting the clanger. That morning, they’d all had covid RATs, and three of the youth crew known as “youthies” had tested positive and had to leave the ship. Fortunately, they’d already arrived in Sydney and were docked off Watson’s Bay at the time. So, although their journey was cut short, they did manage to complete the journey from Geelong to Sydney. The news hit the crew hard, as even in those brief seven days they’d bonded really well and had become one. Obviously, there was also the question of whether the rest of them would come down with it either onboard or when they arrived home. Golly, don’t you hate how covid just has to go and rain on your parade?!! Meanwhile, there were even implications for us parents. We wouldn’t be allowed on the base to greet the ship and be a part of their disembarking ceremony, although we could watch them land from the nearby Coal Loader Wharf which had a breath-taking view across the Harbour towards Balmain and Birchgrove (we were out of sight of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.) My parents and our daughter were all planning to be there. However, Dad is having an operation today and had to pass a RAT and be well) and our daughter has a lot of school assessments and dance commitments. We’ve managed to avoid covid so far, and were hopeful that him being triple vaxed and the power of prayer would spare him (and it did). Meanwhile, we cleared out the caravan in case, but he’s mostly been confined to his room.
Of course, for a storyteller like myself, the return of the sailor was a bonanza and fortunately he was really chatty and didn’t object to a gazillion questions from mum, while I was hastily writing down everything he said as close for word to word as I could. I’m a pretty rapid notetaker so I was more than up for the task. Then, we rang my Dad who sails and so was well versed to ask him pertinent sailing questions and I jotted all his replied down there. By this stage, I had pages of notes and was feeling pretty chuffed. However, this was only the beginning and I’m now behind and have pages to type up. I had another win when he got onto Google Earth and took me on the journey from Geelong to Sydney and telling me stories of what happened along the way. Unlike his mother, he has really good navigational skills, and he was very specific abut where they’d stopped. Btw I thought you’d love to hear that they were moored near Taronga Park Zoo on their last night, and he could hear the elephants trumpeting, especially at 8.00am for some reason and he could also see the seal show.
However, the return of Popeye the Sailor wasn’t our only news this week. We actually had quite a busy weekend. On Saturday, it was Open Day at the dance studio and they gave us a sneak peak into the excerpt of Swan Lake they’ll be performing at production later this year. Miss also performed her new ballet solo for the first time, and it was also her first time wear her new tutu. I was absolutely dazzled, although it seemed strange because I’m so used to the old ballet solo and it’s a very different look. It will be really good to see it when she competes in the competition in a few weeks’ time up on stage and under lights.
That afternoon, I drove up to Long Jetty about 30 minutes or so away where my cousins were holding their studio opening. Gina and Katie are sisters. Katie’s business is Mudita Collective https://www.mudita.com.au/. I must admit it’s funny seeing my younger cousins all grown up and a real businesswoman. This is how she describes what she does: “Inspired by nature’s earthy tones and bohemian vibes, Mudita bursts with femininity and whimsical feels. All of our fabrics are ethically sourced and produced by talented artisans.” Meanwhile, I quite fancied this article from her blog about salvaging your old clothing and turning it into beeswax wraps. I see so much beautiful fabric at the charity shops in clothing that’s too small for me. It’s often really cheap, and I have bought a few pieces with grand ambitions of rebirthing them. So, perhaps making these beeswax wraps might be the way to go. You can read about it here: https://www.mudita.com.au/blogs/mudita-blog/upcycle-your-old-clothing-with-beeswax-wraps
Meanwhile, Katie’s sister, Gina’s business Ginagee Creations has a completely different vibe. This is how Gina describes herself:
“Ginagee creations is a reflection of my creative journey. This forever evolving array of hand-crafted pieces started from a very young time in my life where I was drawing, sewing and crocheting. The more I created, the more I was able to learn and grow as I explored new techniques and ancient crafts. I have not stuck to one particular idea or craft. I am constantly expanding and trying new things to make unique creations. Combined with a deep passion for mother earth, I also source as much sustainable, local, recycled, second-hand materials as I can, so I leave less impact on this precious land. It also allows me to bring a second life and a story into my handmade treasures.” https://www.ginagee.com.au/
Yesterday, the action continued when I went for a picnic on the waterfront with some friends. It was wonderful to see them again.
So, as you can see, I’ve been out and about a lot more this week, but with covid still around, this will probably be more the exception than the rule.