Tag Archives: music

Weekend Coffee Share – 24th October, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Tonight I’m celebrating a journey of epic proportions. For the first time in four months, we actually drove over the Hawkesbury River Bridge and into Sydney to visit my parents and brother. The last time we came out of lockdown and we saw them again, I was so excited and I was soaring. It reminded me of going up to see my grandparents in Queensland and I’d almost be leaping out of my skin waiting to see them. I was much calmer this time. I hadn’t made a cake or anything (which is rather exceptional), and I’ve been trying to pace myself a bit. All these rushes of excitement can be quite exhausting and I’m just trying to remain on more of an even keel.

I couldn’t resist photographing this portrait of my Great Great Aunty Rose on the piano keys. I was about ten when she passed away.

Usually, I’d take my violin down with me and mum would accompany me on the piano. However, I haven’t practiced much in the last six to 12 months so there wasn’t even a quandary about taking that. Instead, I sang long to a couple of Beatles songs…Michelle, Hey Jude, Yellow Submarine as well as Are You Lonesome Tonight? My voice was very rusty, and I’ve been thinking my lung situation had destroyed it. However, it might just be that my register has changed with age. So, I might be doing a bit more singing in the shower. I’ve also made a note to self to get back into practicing my violin and piano. I’m better focusing on one thing but that’s not a balanced life, and now that we’re out of lockdown to some extent, the juggling act has returned.

Tomorrow, our daughter goes back to school. It’s going to be a rude shock, as she was ill and missed a lot of school before lockdown and she’s been doing some schoolwork online from home for the last four months which has included going to the beach. A number of bikinis have arrived in the mail along with sunglasses, and I guess the teachers know what they’re up against and hopefully she can catch up.

As yet, I still haven’t made it to the hairdressers yet. That’s coming up for my daughter and I on Thursday. I’m looking forward to it. meanwhile, she had eyelash extensions fitted during the week. This was something totally out of the realms of my experience as I barely even wear lipstick these days (especially being at home in my PJs during lockdown) . However, now she’s working at McDonalds, she can afford such essential services, and I was merely roped in for taxi duties. Of course, she didn’t tell me it was going to take two hours until were about to leave and she suggested I might need a book!

So, while she was there, I hid out round the corner at the Mt Penang Parklands finishing off my book (Julia Baird’s Phosphorescence: On awe, wonder and things that sustain you when the world goes dark.) I also walked around photographing the wildflowers. In typical Rowie fashion, I managed to get lost and struggled to find my way back to the entrance. However, I was somewhat relieved to read that the architect of these 56 hectare gardens liked to think of it having a hide and seek element to it. However, I don’t think seeking my self was quite what he had in mind!

BTW here’s a link to the post I wrote abt visiting the gardens: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/10/23/mums-taxi-revisits-mt-penang-gardens-north-of-sydney/?wref=tp

Meanwhile, my research projects are progressing. As you may recall, I’ve been helping my friend research his father’s experiences as a Polish bomber pilot in WWII. It’s a slow process exacerbated by the language difficulties, but we’re making headway. It’s also turned out that others have been posting about his dad and a few of his close mates and that’s really added so much to his story. There are two Christmas greetings his follow pilot Alojzy Dreja sent to English families they’d met in December 1940 and both of these speak about the suffering of fellow Poles imprisoned by the Germans and the Russians. They give a good feeling of what it was to be in exile, but grateful in a sense to at least be free. meanwhile, on the Ethel Turner front, I am currently reading Little Mother Meg, which is the third book of the Woolcot series which includes her most famous work: Seven Little Australians. I haven’t written a post over at Tea With Ethel Turner for a week now. So, that’s a priority. It’s hard to be in so many places at once, especially now that lockdown in easing and we’re getting busier.

BTW I thought you might enjoy this little quote from: Little Mother Meg. The Woolcot’s are holding a dance at their home, which is known colloquially as “Misrule” and Meg’s teenaged brother Bunty who is a bit awkward is a bit unsure about interacting with the girls:

“but what in the world can I talk about to a girl I’ve only just met? You just say,`May I have this dance?’ and she says, `Yes’- if she doesn’t say no, thinking I look the right cut to crush her feet to jellies – and then what on earth is there left to say?”

Meg walks Bunty through the sorts of small talk he can undertake with the girl and then she offers him some very sage advice:

“But do your best to forget all about yourself, and try to give the girl as nice a time as you can.”

I really appreciated that, because when you’re nervous and so self-conscious, you’re not thinking so much about the other person. Indeed, being more thoughtful about them, would definitely give you an advantage.

By the way, I also remember being incredibly nervous and self-conscious about dating when I was at school. Ouch! It could be painful, awkward and so embarrassing.

I was quite captivated by this striking wiggly line along the centre of the jetty.

Lastly, Geoff and I went on an unexpectedly short visit to near by Hardy’s Bay to watch the sunset after Mr 17 burnt his foot on hot coals from his fire pit. There was a quick trip to hospital just to be sure, but he was given the okay and I’m sure that must’ve been the fatest turnaround time on record there. He was in and out in about 30 minutes.

Anyway, that’s about it for the last week.

I hope you’re all keeping well, and had a good week.

Meanwhile, you might like to join us over at the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

A Twist of Fate -Friday Fictioneers 13th January, 2021.

The curtain raised. We all stood to attention and managed a macabre applause. The band had been blown up in the NYE Paris terrorist attack. In a freaky twist of fate, they’d just ducked outside to have a cigarette, and were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Meanwhile, their instruments which remained exactly where they were, had survived unscathed. I’ve heard that bass player, Sebastian Gordon, intended to quit that night, and that was going to be his last cigarette. Tragically, it was, although it wasn’t how he’d planned to quit for good. It wasn’t how they’d planned to stick together either. Either they’d been born under an unlucky star, or It was a twist of fate.

….

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields at https://rochellewisoff.com/. This week’s photo prompt was kindly contributed by Dale Richardson.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 22nd December, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve popped by for coffee. Of course, I’m full of excuses and, of course, they’re all very compelling. Top of the list, is the house situation. We’re having my parents over for Christmas lunch, which has somehow necessitated a major renovation of our house in just a few weeks. Fortunately, my husband Geoff has been working from home much of this year, or it wouldn’t have been possible. Not that he’s been renovating on the job. It’s just that he hasn’t been commuting around 2 hours each way to work, and is actually alive at the end of the day.

Geoff cutting up the old carpet. Good riddens, at last!

We’ve actually been trying to launch this reno project for the last six months. The floor boards have been waiting in the garage for us to find someway of magically caterpulting the old piano out the front door. In the end, it turned out to be a classic case of “divide and conquer”. We couldn’t give the piano away as a whole, but it ended up leaving the house in pieces. We’ve kept the keys and pedals, and our friend loaded up the rest on his trailer and disappeared into the sunset. Well, it hasn’t entirely disappeared and a friend did mention something about seeing piano parts outside his place. It does sound a bit suss.

Deconstruction in progress….

As any of you who have renovated will agree, one thing leads to another. Once we moved out the furniture and got the new floor down, it became pretty clear a wall needed painting and then the room. I wasn’t much chop on the painting front, and so I drifted out into what really should be known as the “dump room”, and steadily started making progress and soon I found myself swept up in a whirlwind. Or, more to the point, hundreds of books found themselves caught up in the whirlwind and swept out the door to the charity shop. I decided I’d disposed of enough books to send an entire bookshelf packing, enabling us to turn the dump room into a retreat and we’ll be moving a couch out there tomorrow.

While it’s very satisfying to be on such a roll, with three days to Christmas, it’s hard to know quite when to call it a day and start shoving everything back in, not pulling more of it out. Yet, I’m planning to drop another load off to the charity shop tomorrow and the car’s not full yet. What else can go? What else can I turf and release that bit more space? It’s a sort of mania once it gets hold of you, but while we need to get the house as clean and spacious as possible, we also need to cook and cooking requires ingredients. Yikes, how does a simple lunch become so complicated? I’m sure if Jesus was in charge, he’d just tell me to make them all Vegemite sandwiches and be done with it. Keep it simple, Stupid.

Anyway, what else has been going on?

Well, we were relaxed. Being part of Great Sydney, we watched Melbourne go into lock down and we were just a little superior about it. After all, we always knew Sydney was better than Melbourne. However, Melbourne’s got it’s revenge. Covid’s back with a vengeance with a cluster generated out of Avalon just down from Palm Beach. This general area known as “the Northern Beaches” is now in lock down and people will be doing Christmas at home, potentially alone. It’s pretty tough, especially when people do so much to prepare for the big day, and I know I’ll really be spewing if my parents can’t come up. Christmas is Christmas. It is more than sacred.

How is Christmas looking in your neck of the woods? Are you catching up with family or friends? Or, are you playing it safe, or possibly in lock down. It’s rough when Christmas gets cancelled. I think even the great Scrooge would complain about that.

Anyway, I’d like to wish you are yours a Merry and blessed Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Piano Deconstructed.

As the saying goes “you can’t even give a piano away anymore”, especially when it’s over a hundred years old, out of tune, verging on decrepit, but with just enough life left to hope someone else might take it on. For the last five to ten years, we’ve been trying to give our piano away. Although we’ve had a few nibbles over the years, there have been no takers, and it just kept sitting here covered in picture frames, and an accumulation of household detritus and dust.

“Some people are aware of another sort of thinking which… leads to those simple ideas that are obvious only after they have been thought of… the term ‘lateral thinking’ has been coined to describe this other sort of thinking; ‘vertical thinking’ is used to denote the conventional logical process.”

Edward de Bono

However, as we found out, it’s all about the packaging. Or, perhaps I should say, how you package it. While no one wanted the entire piano, we finally managed to get our friend Neil interested in the parts. Indeed, he ended up towing most of the piano away in pieces over a few trips, and we were particularly excited to be able to keep the strings in tact, even if Geoff did have to saw through more than 10 centimetres of solid wood to pull it off. Neil’s already mounted the felts in his loungeroom where they’ve become an curious discussion point, and there are plans for a seat out of the wood. Meanwhile, I’m wondering how the birds and possums are going to respond to the ghostly sounds the keyless strings will be playing out in the bush until he works out what to do with it.

Yours truly photographed with the hammers extracted out of our piano. Neil’s cleverly mounted this on a wall. It’s intriguing.

Meanwhile, I have to tell you how much we enjoyed deconstructing this humble 100 year old piano. I know that sounds absolutely terrible, especially when I’m from a family of accomplished pianists. Indeed, it felt very much like a chainsaw massacre, especially after we found out much of it had been glued together, and the only way to get it apart, was to saw it to pieces.

However, ironically pulling it apart emphasized the beauty of its parts, which had become lost in the whole, especially once some of the keys weren’t working, and the cost of restoration was never going to pay off.

Indeed, it was quite incredible to appreciate just how much work, skill and attention to detail had gone into constructing the piano, and I guess we felt a bit sad that it had ended up being a useless lump of furniture and a burden. Indeed, it went further than that. The piano had actually become a significant roadblock, stopping us from renovating our loungeroom and getting it to a state where we’d be comfortable inviting friends over and dare I say it (drum roll) ENTERTAINING!!

So, I guess you won’t be surprised when I tell you that this situation with the piano has become a great analogy for explaining how to deal with a large persistent problem. Somehow, we need to find a way of carving it up into smaller components which will be much easier to deal with so we can clear the decks.

I also think our handling of the piano problem also shows how persistence can backfire. Sometimes, we need to stop persisting and give up. Stop putting up with a burden, problem, difficult person or situation and decide that “enough is enough”. It is going, going, gone!

Do you have any special memories of the piano? Or, perhaps you have a few horror stories instead. It’s a shame that the piano no longer holds it’s place at the heart of the family home with people gathered round to sing and play together; and also how it’s demise can also be attributed to the clutter Nazi’s who on’t let another gather dust. It is OUT!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 21st September, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

I don’t know whether most of you are aware, that I usually post my coffee share late on Monday night Sydney time, and I view sharing what happened on my weekend as a feature of my posts, as much as what happened during the previous week. This is one of the benefits of being ahead on the International time zone front. However, on nights like tonight, I’ve moved well onto the next week and almost forget to post. Indeed, I’ve almost forgotten what happened last week.

Yet, I haven’t forgotten my quest to find the elusive Waratahs in our local National Park…or my success (which you can read about in my previous post). I haven’t forgotten that walk either because I slipped and did a bit of what my husband refers to as “rock surfing”. It wasn’t a major fall. However, as I was sliding down, I realized my leg was in an awkward position and was being twisted in opposite directions. Clearly, that wasn’t good and in a moment of terror, I thought I was about to break my leg. I managed to jiggle my leg a little which might’ve saved the day. However, although I was able to hobble back to the car, it didn’t stop Geoff from having to step in once again as my knight in shining armour… and it still hurts.

I was quite enchanted by the shadows the gum trees cast across the bush track. Could be rather haunting as well.

Last Tuesday, I set off driving towards nearby Patonga through the Brisbane Waters’ National Park in search of the elusive Waratah, which is not only our state’s floral emblem, it’s also the ruby in her crown. I was fortunate to spot a cluster of Waratahs just beside the road and was absolutely smitten. They’re just beautiful.

I also went for a brief bushwalk across the road a long a fire trail which leads onto the Great North Walk. I wasn’t so interested in that at this point. Rather, I was pursuing the Spring wildflowers. Although 2020 has been a bad year in so many ways, it’s actually been a great year for the wildflowers here. That’s probably because we had somegood solid rains over the last couple of months. However, I’m also tempted to question whether the very adversity which has given us humans such challenging circumstances has actually caused these masters of adversity to thrive? Our fauna is rough and rugged and you just need to check out the sharp, leathery leaves of many of our plants, to realize they’ve got it tough. Moreover, quite a number of the gum trees I saw had been burned most likely during burn offs, but we’ve also had a few fire bugs lighting fires over there. So, who knows? Well, it wouldn’t take much for me to find out, as there are very few secrets around here, but I’ve been quite busy so the mystery will have to remain for awhile yet.

This plant’s known colloquially as “Egg & Bacon”.

In addition to getting out for my walks and doing some photography, I’ve also been doing a fair bit of baking. Actually, I’ve been doing a lot of baking last week as I had a few things on. There was a batch of chocolate chip and hazelnut cookies. Then, I made a pavlova to take to a friend’s birthday. Saturday turned into a big bake. I made a Bran Cake with dates and apricots for my Dad as a belated Father’s Day gift. I’d also been asked to make a birthday cake for our Pastor’s birthday for Sunday. She likes lemon and so I made a lemon sour cream cake and baked it in a rose-shaped bundt tin my mother gave me awhile back. I drizzled it with lemon icing and sprinkled it with finely chopped strawberries. There wasn’t much of that cake to go round. So, I also made a chocolate cake in a silicone mould shaped like a castle. Unfortunately, I had trouble getting it out and it started to crumble. In fact, it resembled more of a jumping castle. However, those of you who have made a few cakes in your time, will know the power of a bit of strategically placed icing and decoration. I’d always planned to cover it with chopped up Violet Crumble, but it turned out better than I thought and the honeycomb turned into bricks. I thought it needed some kind of character in the cake and I found a dude in a bag of stuff heading to the charity shop. You beauty! The cakes had balloons added and they were walked down the aisle for Happy Birthday. I thought it was quite funny seeing them there getting the royal treatment, especially after my troubles with the castle cake. However, they were very popular, and they had a good laugh. Thought all my mishaps were intentional. Should’ve kept my mouth shut. However, baking is something that usually keeps me humble. It doesn’t take much for a triumph to become a tragedy. I also bake not only because I enjoy it and eating the goods, but also to cheer people up and make them happy. Indeed, I’m becoming more and more convinced of the power of food to help you feel better, which doesn’t bode well for those trying to diet and wanting to break those bonds. I can be quite a bad influence.

Meanwhile, our son has had an important series of exams at school. He will start Year 12 in a few weeks’ time, which is our final year of school. Geoff and I were clearly more stressed about it than he was and I don’t know whether I want him to do poorly to learn the value of hard work. Or, have naturally ability and come through. It’s a bit hard to pull that off at this stage of the game, but he could be lucky.

Lastly, our efforts to clear out some of the stuff from our house and yard are ongoing. My old electric recliner went and we put a very old airconditioning unit out the front which was so heavy it took two people to lift it, and it was gone in 15 minutes. We suspect someone’s carted it off to the metal recyclers. We’re also in the process of dismantling an old piano. A friend didn’t want the piano as a whole but is interested in the bits and pieces. I’m keeping the keys and the pedals to mount on the wall and he’s taking much of the rest. However, it needs to be destringed before it goes, which is going to be a beast of a job and also potentially dangerous.

Lastly, I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned much about buying a Yamaha MX88 keyboard synthesizer in lieu of the piano. Or, whether you’re aware that I play the violin. Well, I thought that if I’m going to play the piano that I should learn to play “Piano Man”. However, my husband made me feel like my rendition was in a coma. It was too slow. However, it sounded much better when I played it on my violin. Does that make it “The Violin Woman”? I’m not sure, but I’m persevering and enjoying myself and I am improving. I’ll just repeat that. I am improving.

Anyway, how have you been? I should’ve offered you a tea or coffee at the outset and a slice of something. However, I glossed over all the formalities this week and didn’t make a big song and dance over it all.

Anyway, I hope you’ve had a great week.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Alli here: https://eclecticali.wordpress.com/2020/09/18/weekendcoffeeshare-oh-right-i-also-did-things-last-weekend/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Midnight With the Philosopher’s Journal.

Well after midnight the night before last, a melancholy spirit crept into the house via the backdoor, and  joined me, my cup of decaf tea and row of Cadbury Hazelnut chocolate.  Zac, our gorgeous Border Collie x was sleeping across my lap nursing my keyboard,  while the rest of the house slept (or at least pretended to be asleep). In hindsight, I half wonder whether Zac was there to protect me from such spirits late at night, in the same way he guards the house from more physical threats. After all, when you put things in perspective, we often need more protection from ourselves than an intruder.

Anyway, as some of you would be aware, I’ve been researching and writing a collection of short  bios of Australians serving in France during WWI. I won’t just say soldiers, because my latest addition is Bill the Bantam Bugler, a bantam rooster who joined the 13th Battalion 12th reinforcements in camp at Liverpool in Sydney. Not one to be left behind,  he boarded the Suevic on the 22nd December along with the intrepid  Maud Butler and travelled to Egypt, before arriving in France.As it turned out, Billy the Bantam found his own battlefields in farmyards across France where he became the all-conquering Australian Napoleon of the chicken run. No rooster was too big for this little guy bursting with fight.

It was while I was researching Billy, that I came across a series of journals put out by the NSW Red Cross during the war. These journals have been a treasure trove of snippets, taking me off in all sorts of directions.

As you might’ve gathered by now, my research proceeds in anything but a straight, linear path and darts off on multitudinous detours. These are okay. Indeed, you could well consider them “the scenic route”. However, being in unchartered territory, I also need to develop strategies for finding my way back to the main road, or I’ll never get this finished.

Anyway, in the August 1916 edition, I found a quote which has taken me off on a completely different journey, forging a new main road straight through the bush. It reads:

“Never to tire, never to grow cold; to be patient, sympathetic, tender; to

look for the budding flower and the opening heart; to hope always; like

God, to love always–this is duty.”

Henri-Frederic Amiel

Amiel's journal

I’d never heard of this Swiss philosopher before, or  his famous journal: The Journal Intime. That’s now changed, and I spent the rest of the night reading through the most profound, gripping quotes, which I thought you might also appreciate. These all come from his journal:

“I am a spectator, so to speak, of the molecular whirlwind which men call individual life; I am conscious of an incessant metamorphosis, an irresistible movement of existence, which is going on within me — and this phenomenology of myself serves as a window opened upon the mystery of the world.”

“He who floats with the current, who does not guide himself according to higher principles, who has no ideal, no convictions–such a man is a mere article of the world’s furniture–a thing moved, instead of a living and moving being–an echo, not a voice. The man who has no inner life is the slave of his surroundings, as the barometer is the obedient servant of the air at rest, and the weathercock the humble servant of the air in motion.”

“A bubble of air in the blood, a drop of water in the brain, and a man is out of gear, his machine falls to pieces, his thought vanishes, the world disappears from him like a dream at morning. On what a spider thread is hung our individual existence!”

“Our true history is scarcely ever deciphered by others. The chief part of the drama is a monologue, or rather an intimate debate between God, our conscience, and ourselves. Tears, grieves, depressions, disappointments, irritations, good and evil thoughts, decisions, uncertainties, deliberations –all these belong to our secret, and are almost all incommunicable and intransmissible, even when we try to speak of them, and even when we write them down.”

“Composition is a process of combination, in which thought puts together complementary truths, and talent fuses into harmony the most contrary qualities of style. So that there is no composition without effort, without pain even, as in all bringing forth. The reward is the giving birth to something living–something, that is to say, which, by a kind of magic, makes a living unity out of such opposed attributes as orderliness and spontaneity, thought and imagination, solidity and charm.”

“He who is silent is forgotten; he who does not advance falls back; he who stops is overwhelmed; out distanced, crushed; he who ceases to grow becomes smaller; he who leaves off, gives up; the condition of standing still is the beginning of the end.”

I particularly loved this quote with it’s note of pure melancholy, and social isolation:

“I can find no words for what I feel. My consciousness is withdrawn into itself; I hear my heart beating, and my life passing. It seems to me that I have become a statue on the banks of the river of time, that I am the spectator of some mystery, and shall issue from it old, or no longer capable of age.”

As I read this,  I pictured myself as Michelangelo’s Statue of David standing beside the River Neckar in Heidelberg where I lived many years ago. Or, perhaps, I was seeing Amiel, and I’ll recast myself as the Venus de Milo, which I saw in the Louvre on the same trip.

Perhaps, many of us are also feeling like that powerless, detached, isolated statue on the river bank. We’re simply watching as our loved ones, income, jobs, businesses, savings are all being swept away by the river’s flow, and there’s nothing we can do to hold them back. In so many ways, we are powerless. Or, our capacity to respond and “fix” the impact has been greatly reduced, and this doesn’t sit well in our mindset of “Just do it”, “Make it happen”, or “you can be anything you want”.

Where are we to turn?

My Dad used to say that doing something tough “put hairs on your chest”, which I wasn’t keen on as a girl, but I now understand that he was talking about building grit and resilience. Whatever doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. He also said: “life wasn’t meant to be easy.” However, he didn’t use the full quote:

“Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful.”

― George Bernard Shaw

Anyway, getting back to what brought me into my melancholy zone of reflection the other night. Australia is now at the point of legitimately easing social distancing restrictions. While this is seemingly great news, for me personally its implications are mixed. Being at high risk myself, I need to work out what all of this means for me. Being in more of a melancholy mood at the time, I could see myself being left behind at home, while the rest of the country was out partying. Indeed, I even saw myself as that child stuck inside peering out while all the other children are playing. My hands and face are pressed hard up against the window watching all the others play and there’s such a deep, unfathomable heartache. A never-ending but very private cry.  In hindsight, it’s pretty clear that my thoughts galloped ahead of themselves.  We’re not at the point of coming out yet here in NSW, and I might not be left behind. The spread is being very well contained and might be all but wiped out.

With my chronic health and lung issues, these universal restrictions have not only been a lifesaver, for once we’re all in the same boat. Before they came about, with my husband working in a known hot spot and the kids being at school, we were expecting that I’d need to evacuate both from the community and from our family as well. Australia’s initial infection rates were heading along a similar trajectory to Italy and we had no reason back then to believe Australia would largely dodge the bullet. Consequently, we bought a camper to house me away from the family in our backyard. That’s how serious it was. Now, Australia’s in an entirely different position where we’ve almost eradicated the virus, but we’re not there yet.  New cases are still appearing, including a new cluster in Victoria. Restrictions haven’t eased much as yet. However, we will now be able to visit my parents for Mother’s Day tomorrow with the kids. That’s two and adults and dependent kids. That’s all that’s allowed, although school is going back one day a week, but we’re holding back at the moment. I don’t know how it’s going to look in a few weeks. So, I could well have freaked myself out without reason. Our State Premier is taking a very cautious approach. I might not get left behind.

Anyway, in the meantime, I was pleased to hang out with Amiel for a few hours, which has now extended into reading his journal, which is accessible online here and I strongly recommend reading the introduction as well:  Journal Intime

I am trying not to get too caught up what many of us know as “the dark side of the moon”. However, I also feel it’s important to acknowledge that it’s there. That it’s okay to indulge in it for a time, but like my many research detours, we shouldn’t linger too long and always endeavour to get back to the main road. Or, even return via the scenic and take a more uplifting route if we can.

I would love to encourage you to read Amiel’s journal with me and stay tuned for further posts. I already have a few up my sleeve.

How are you getting through the coronacrisis? Are you okay? Or, have you also had times of feeling melancholy, afraid or just confused? Even just having shops, Church, dance studio, schools, parks, museums and art galleries closed is throwing us out of kilter, and we’re not dealing with the worst of it.

It’s important to let these feelings out and share where we’re at. We don’t need to hide our grief away. Those of us well away from the epicentres, have big shoulders and are able to help carry the weight of your grief. It belongs to us all. You don’t need to bear it alone. Thankfully, the Internet is enabling us all to connect despite layer up on layer of border closures, shut downs and precautions and we can spread the love around like lashings of butter on hot toast.

From my place to your place, hang in there and we hope you’re doing okay.

Love,

Rowena

PS A big thank you to all my blogging buddies who’ve been through lock down with me! I truly appreciate our friendship!!!

V- Places I’ve Played My Violin.

Welcome back to Places I’ve Been, my theme for the 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge, which is rapidly drawing to a close. I had considered heading to Victoria, and was going to write about visiting the vineyards of Australia’s Hunter and Barossa valleys. However, as experienced in previous posts, I’ve been having a lot of trouble digging up my old photos and so I decided to bail. So, instead, I’m writing about where I’ve played my violin, although I’ll also throw in my daughter’s grand violin performance, which humbles mine completely. Indeed, I’ve become her humble shadow.

Violin & concert violinist music

My violin journey began as a child when I was learning Suzuki violin from Yvonne Gannoni, who I recently found out had studied at the Royal Academy of Music and had stellar talent. In the 1970’s, she was teaching Suzuki violin from her home in Pymble on Sydney’s North Shore and also at Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains. What I remember most about her, however, is her bright blue eye shadow and colourful kaftans. At least, I think they were kaftans, and they sort of fit in with the era. She was a larger than life, flamboyant figure who held her annual concerts at nothing less than the Sydney Opera House, where groups of students would perform the Suzuki repertoire. It was in hindsight, absolutely fabulous.

It was my brother who was truly learning violin from Miss Gannoni, while I was learning the piano from my beloved Mrs Gaut. However, I had to wait for my brother’s lessons to finish and somewhere along the way, I decided to take up the violin. Unfortunately, my efforts at the violin were very short-lived as I couldn’t get either my head or my fingers around how to hold the bow. I think I stuck at it for a year and that was that. Unfortunately, in that very short time, I never made it to the Opera House.

family playing violin

The family playing violin from Suzuki Book 1 in 2012.

That could well have been the end of my love affair with the violin. However, when I was around 25 and working in the city, I was walking through Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building and heard a busker playing Meditation By Massinet. Ever reflective and tinged with melancholy, this piece of music was absolutely magnificent and seemed to be playing my soul song at the time. I even bought his CD, which was very unusual for me.

violin birthday cake

I was quite surprised when my mum ordered me a violin cake for my birthday in 2012. It was something of a premonition! Good on you Mum!

Fast-forwarding to 2012, our daughter begged us to learn the violin. I wasn’t altogether sold on this, because the general consensus was that the piano would be a better first instrument. Moreover, with my mother being a piano teacher, accompanist and former student of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and my grandmother being a concert pianist, the piano was a natural destination. However, the piano never really spoke to me in the same way it moved my moher and grandmother and my cousin is a cellist. So,  contrary to my upbringing, there were other instruments and you didn’t HAVE to learn the piano. You could diversify.

Amelia Violin

That’s how we found ourselves one afternoon in term one 2012 with my daughter kitted out with her eighth size violin. At least, I’m pretty sure it was an eighth. The teacher offered for me to sit in. I didn’t know this at the time and her teacher wasn’t Suzuki trained, however, part of Suzuki’s approach is for the mother to play and for the child to play alongside the mother and learn music in the same way they almost seem to absorb language. Anyway, when we came home, it soon became clear that my help was required and that year of Suzuki training I’d had under the Great Yvonne Gannoni was being summoned back from the very deepest depths of memory. We pulled Geoff’s grandfather’s violin out of storage and that was to be my instrument until the Ebay violin arrived from China and I later moved onto the Stentor I still play today.

As it turned out, our daughter’s relationship with he violin at age 6 was short-lived. After a very passionate start, we went way and when she came home, her violin was screeching like a dying cockatoo, which not only assaulted her ear drums, but also her pride. The end didn’t come quietly or through neglect, but rather stormy angst and heartfelt tears. I continued on with her lessons until the end of term and kept going.

At the end of the year, the music school held their annual concert at a rather impressive local music venue, Lizottes, which was owned by Australian rock legend Diesel and his brother and all sorts of famous local and international acts had performed there…along with little old me in our violin ensemble. As we hung out together in the “red room” downstairs, we had a taste of the big time and boy it felt good, even better once we hit the stage. It was exhilarating. I even won an award.

Perhaps, it was the thrill of this success, which gave this novice and not very proficient violinist the pluck to pose with her violin outside Byron Bay Lighthouse. Indeed, this was actually more the photographer in me than the “budding” musician. Aside from the Sydney Opera House, what better backdrop could you ask for? I was just hoping against all hope, that nobody asked me to play. Boy, that would’ve had been scuttling off for cover, which of course they did. OMG!!! What was I thinking?

Anyway, I still haven’t made it to the Sydney Opera House. As the years go by, and my hopes rapidly fade of ever pulling off that much needed 10,000 hours of practice before I’m beyond a Zimmer frame, I’m now needing to find a fresh sense of purpose for my violin. Indeed, I need to find a tribe, which is not so easy where we live, especially when I’m not getting a lot of practice in.  My lessons are currently on hold due to the coronavirus, and I’m reconsidering everything. I need to find a way forward, which is seriously heading off along the road less travelled. It would be so much easier if I played the guitar. However, I’m a violinist. It’s a different sound, which comes from a different place, and I don’t want to lose that precious part of me. Somehow, I need to hold on.

Rowena on stage

Performing at an in-house concert last year.

Have you ever learned the violin? Or, perhaps you have a favourite piece of violin music? Or, you play something else? Or, you might even hate the violin and it’s dreadful screechings and squarkings. You don’t need to tell me just how vile a violin can sound, particularly in the early days. I know!!!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 6th April, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week you’re in luck. I can offer you a lusciously fresh, Orange Buttercream Cupcake with raspberries on top. My husband dropped off a box of three to my parents and brother in Sydney on his way to work this morning. In keeping with social distancing regulations, he simply left the box on their doorstep, knocked on the door and was off. Mum had a lovely surprise. My Dad doesn’t like icing so his was plain, which looked like he was missing out alongside the rest. Dad was pleased I remembered, although Mum said she could’ve cut the top off. I warned her all that icing could have made her sick. It’s very rich.

cupcake box Pymble

Mum sent us this photo of the cupcakes we dropped off. As you can see, two of them had evaporated soon after delivery.

I’m pleased we got in touch. I haven’t seen them for a couple of months. We had to cancel a get-together for our kids’ birthdays because we had colds, not knowing what was to come. I should’ve pushed a bit harder and got something organized. However, you know how it is. You always think you have forever. Who could’ve predicted this was just around the corner?

I obviously don’t know how the coronavirus is impacting on you, your family and friends and community. However, I would love to hear from you and come together around this online cafe and share our experiences. I live at Umina Beach, just North of Sydney, Australia. The whole country is close to being at home. Most state borders have closed and in Western Australia, they’ve even set up regional zones for containing movement. This is really good, and it’s making life a lot easier for people who are at high risk of not only catching the virus, but also having a dire outcome. This, unfortunately, includes me but for once, I’m not alone. Most of the country is in the same boat and people are rising to the challenge.

At this point in Australia, the impacts have largely been economic and around 1 million people have lost their jobs. The government has responded by increasing welfare payments, but it’s hit some people very hard and losing your job is always painful. Fortunately, Geoff works in IT for a university and so far, so good. He’s an essential worker. He lost his job back in the GFC, so we went through this back then and know that pain and hope you and yours have managed to avoid it.

While still on the subject of Coronavirus, I also wanted to share something I posted earlier tonight….Every Home Is Now A Stage. As you may be aware, musicians and performers around the world have been posting free performances online with a view of lifting our collective spirits and so I decided to put a selection of these together to share with you. There are contributions from Jimmy Barnes, Andrew Lloyd Webber, the National Gallery and I had to include a clip of feeding a baby koala at Taronga Zoo, which made my heart sing.

KLM

Meanwhile, I’ve been taking part in the annual Blogging From A to Z  April Challenge. My theme this year is “Places I’ve Been”, which has a travel and photographic feel to it with a bit of introspection and philosophy thrown in. The alphabetical aspect to this challenge always makes it interesting, because there are always some letters where you have a plethora of options and it’s really hard to boil it down to one. Then, there are other letters where you really have to struggle to come up with anything and the results can feel quite random. I chose this theme, due to the current travel restrictions and I wanted to spread some joy. It’s also been very therapeutic to revisit these places myself and to realize that despite illness and parenthood, I am still a traveller.

Here’s are my posts for week 1:

Amsterdam

Berlin

Canberra

Devonport, Tasmania.

Have you been to any of these places? Or, perhaps you’ve lived there? I’d love to read any reflections in the comments below.

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

We hope you and yours stay safe and well.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Our Sojourn At Swan Lake.

“Being born in a duck yard does not matter, if only you are hatched from a swan’s egg.”

– Hans Christian Andersen

On Saturday, we were lined up in our seats anxiously waiting for the curtain to rise. Our daughter was performing in Swan Lake & Beyond with the Central Dance Company at the Wyong Art House, North of Sydney. Not only that, she was going to be a swan and I couldn’t wait to see her appear like an apparition in that voluminous white tutu elegantly flapping her wings across the stage.

There is such an absolute silence…that pregnant pause… just before the curtain rises which seemingly lasts for eternity. We, the audience, is waiting in suspended animation, while anything could be happening behind the curtain. Like a bolt of lightening, the curtain rises and an explosion of colour, movement and sound grips our senses. We’re not on Swan Lake yet. Rather, the opening number is  called Hooked on Tchaikovsky.  The music reminded me of a cassette we used to have: Hooked On Classics. Those of you of a certain age, might recall it. Otherwise, just  think of fast-paced classics. I don’t know what to say about the dancing, except that I was wowed and I remember actively trying to expand my perception to take it all in, as I’m better at focusing in on a detail than absorbing the entire scene.

Amelia Swan Lake Waltz

Our daughter in Swan Lake Act 1 Waltz of the Swans.

Keeping track of our daughter during the opening number was difficult. Given their hairstyles and costumes were identical, all the dancers almost looked the same, and unless your dancer is extremely tall or short, it was down to hair colour. I always find my daughter has an identical twin in these performances and I forever mix them up. Once I spot her, that’s it. I have to keep my eyes fixed and I can’t even blink just in case I lose her. That’s why I’ve booked myself in to watch all three shoes. I figured I’d only be watching our daughter for the first show, and could then take in more of the bigger picture for shows two and three. After all, I do want to see the show in all its glory and not only through my blinkered, crazed-Mum-vision. Besides, the third show will also be at a different venue and I don’t want to miss whatever that means and that show will also be the finale. Besides, I know I’m not fooling anyone. We all know I’m a parent tragic gazing longingly up at our daughter as though she’s the star in the night sky. However, I make no apologies for that. Every performer needs their greatest fans. It’s not easy getting up on stage with a million and one things on your mind and having to hold it together on the pointe of your shoe. You need to know someone believes in you, especially when you’re pushing through into so many new frontiers, which are all deliriously exciting but equally terrifying and formidable.

“He had danced with fair maidens before, but Odette was different. She was graceful and beautiful, but there was something in her eyes and in the things she said, an intelligence and a boldness that belied her quiet demeanor.”
― Melanie Dickerson, The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest

However, this is not a review of the show or even our daughter’s performance within. I know professional critics do it all the time. However, I haven’t yet mastered the ability to condense something so mind-blowingly spectacular into a handful of words. I make no apologies for that. After all, Swan Lake is silent. There are no words at all. Yet, even as a wordsmith, I didn’t even notice they were missing because the movements and expressions of the dancers along with Tchaikovsky’s incredible music said it all. I was transfixed.

Yet, within all of the movement and the spectacular music, there was our daughter. Finally, almost at the end of the show, she appeared from left stage in her white tutu and she was a swan. You’d think I would’ve etched those moments into my retina forever so I could just pull up a seat and play it again Sam over and over again. However, I was also dazzled by the performances of the featured artists. There was Rebecca Petty as Odette and Cieran Edinger as Siegfried and I would have fallen deeply into their intoxicating love story if it hadn’t been for the diabolical Von Rothbart (played by Gary Bowles) who kept tearing them apart. Gary played this dastardly villain hauntingly well and  had me shaking in my shoes, even though I’ve met him quite a few times at rehearsals.

Amelia and Rowena

After the show with our daughter.

However, all too soon, the performance was over and we were left at Stage Door holding our flowers waiting for our daughter to appear. This reminded me of waiting at Arrivals at the International Airport where you’re waiting for this person you haven’t seen for a very long time to appear. However, there’s this dribble of people coming through and you’re waiting and waiting. When they finally appear, there’s almost an explosion of emotion. That uncurtailed excitement! No doubt that weary traveller was not unlike our petite ballerina who just wanted to get to bed and rest her feet. Well, she did have a her tales to tell and agreed to a few photographs, which wasn’t going to be a given. It wasn’t quite “Go straight to be, directly to bed. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.00”.

As we were driving home, I could almost shed a sigh of relief. The first two shows were done and dusted, and there’d barely been a ripple in the pond. Indeed, we were floating along on swan lake.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I hope to get a photo of our daughter in her Swan Lake tutu soon.

The Closet Violinist Breaks Out.

Tonight, the closet violinist swung from the chandelier onto centre stage, dazzling the audience with a half-decent rendition of Chopin’s: “How Deep Is the Night” (Tristesse). However, if I’m honest, my entry onto the stage was much more reticent. Of course, I didn’t want to trip over which was quite a possibility with all the leads, drum kits etc to fall over. However, my violin teacher helped me out and my grand entry went smoothly. Now, I just needed to play…

In the days leading up to the concert, I second guessed myself something chronic.WHAT WAS I THINKING?!!! “You’re hopeless. It’s not ready. Don’t do it!!!” Of course, I’d done nowhere near enough practice. It was only in the last days before the concert, I actually got moving squeezing in all those critical hours of practice, which make such a difference yet almost came too late. However, despite the anxiety, I actually love performing and would love to get out there more often. It’s another one of those eternal, internal conundrums.

Rowena on stage

I could almost look like a rock violinist under these lights.

It was only a small soiree with fellow students and their families. Hardly playing at the big end of year concert, or heaven forbid, at the Sydney Opera House. However, no one likes making mistakes and there’s always that possibility of humiliating disaster. Yours truly has even broken her foot just before going on stage, but in true violinist fashion, it was on with the show. However, nobody in our household says “break a leg” before any of my performances now.

“How Deep Is the Night” is a particularly melancholy piece of music and the words are grab you by throat kind of dark…

SO DEEP IS THE NIGHT 

So deep is the night,

No moon tonight,

No friendly star to guide me with its light.

Be still my heart,

Silent lest my love could be returning,

From a world far apart.

So deep is the night,

Oh lonely night,

On broken wings my heart has taken flight,

And left a dream.

In my dream our lips are blending;

Will my dream be never ending?

Will your memory haunt me till I die?

Alone am I,

Deep into the night,

Waiting for the light.

Alone am I,

I wonder why,

I wonder why.

In my dream our lips are blending;

Will my dream be never ending?

Will your memory haunt me till I die?

Alone am I,

Deep into the night,

Waiting for the light.

Alone am I,

I wonder why,

I wonder why.

Frederik Chopin (m) 1832 Sonny Miller (l) as recorded by Richard Tauber March 29th 1940

However, who hasn’t experienced that all-consuming heartbreak and that sense of the surrounding darkness penetrating your soul? That’s one thing I don’t miss about my youth!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t share the words with the audience so I gave a brief introduction and parked a teddy bear in front. You can’t see it clearly in the photos. However, he has a red stone on his lap with “I love you” etched into it.

DSC_5727

I’d proud of myself for persevering with the violin, which has been very challenging at times. However, persistence and regular practice pays off. I’m making solid strides forward. It’s fantastic.

Rowena & Danni

Photographed here with my very encouraging and patient teacher, Danielle. We played as a duet. 

Do you play an instrument? Do you perform at all? Do you like it? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Best wishes,

Rowena