Age didn’t soften the blow. He was old, and she was old. Still, his death was brutal. She’d held onto his ice-cold body until the neighbour called their daughter. “It was time.” No! It would never be time. They would dance together for eternity: the swan and her beloved prince.
Celeste made them tea, right through Winter, and barely noticed he never said a word.
Now, the snow was thawing, and his chair had risen from the dead.
She couldn’t bear it.
The neighbor found Celeste lying on the snow still holding the axe.
For those of you who know me well, you’ll know our daughter dances seriously. After a very disjointed couple of years, dance is back with a vengeance and I spent hours at the studio last week for open week and it’s dance competition this week. Part of me quite enjoys living and breathing dance, but am just a bystander and with my health issues, it’s really difficult to keep up with the demands of high pressure dance. At today’s competition, it wasn’t one of the dancers on stage who crashed and had a fall. It was yours truly who managed her feat of brilliance from her chair. I ended up on the floor and the whole competition came to a grinding halt for a good 10-15 minutes. I felt humiliated. What no one tells you about having offspring pursuing a high octane career path, is that they’re taking you with them. You also have to measure up. Sadly, I don’t believe I can. Well, not in a physical sense anyway. However, I’d imagine I’d be hard to beat if imagination had anything to do with it. However, that’s not the domain of a dance mum, and could even be a curse. Much better to stay in your place. Fire up the engine. Sew up those pointe shoes, and pay the bills. (Humph, feeling a bit sorry for myself tonight and very sore. Perhaps, my love affair with dance might return again in the morning.)
“Dance is the hidden language of the soul.” Martha Graham
Collectively, we’ve posted many doors on this blog share. However, for most of us it’s the familiar doors which mean the most, especially our very own front door.
Well, this Thursday I was waiting for my daughter to finish her dance class, and I noticed the door to the studio with it’s welcoming sign and I thought I’d honour that this week. After all, this is 11th year we’ve walked through that door for another dance year, and now she’s about to turn 15. So, let’s just say: “she’s improved”.
Walking through this door has been a life changer for the kids and myself. Although I’d done ballet until I was about eleven, I didn’t really get into dance at all. Didn’t connect with it, and certainly wasn’t one to go to the ballet. I’m more one for the Sydney Writer’s Festival, or possibly the theatre.
However, that’s all changed. I’ve been metamorphosed into loving dance, not that I go to the ballet even now, I see so much of it through my daughter and right up close, that I haven’t felt the need. Perhaps, I’m missing out and I was edging towards taking our daughter to the ballet in Sydney, but then covid came along. Besides, we’ve been to a few musicals in Sydney. So, she hasn’t been deprived.
Anyway, I still remember the first day we walked through this door, and into the studio for her first class. What I remember most about that, was the door closing in front of me, and I was left behind. She was only three turning four. The teacher took her away, and she was gone. It was like her first day of school, only a little early.
Since then, we’ve had the annual concerts where before we humble parents and grandparents were able to see our little darlings prancing around on stage, we had to master the fine art of getting the hair in place. This act of torture is not for the faint-hearted when your daughter has very fine hair which knots easily and every stroke of the brush produces tears and a deafening scream. Of course, it’s all worth it when you see them up on stage.
It was around the time of the first annual concert, that our daughter appeared en pointe at home. This, of course, wasn’t on real pointe shoes when she was only four years old. Rather, it was on little blue plastic cups, but she was entranced and took it very seriously.
I don’t know if I looked at her back then and started seeing glimpses of the ballerina she would become. However, it wasn’t much later because right from dot she looked like a ballerina and through all the trappings of a knockabout kid who was doing nippers, scouts and going swimming at the beach in her school uniform on occasions after school, the ballerina was there just like Michelangelo seeing David inside that block of marble.
That’s not to say that she’s going to become the next Misty Copeland. In many ways, she’s already become herself and is already a ballerina now, even though she’s still got such a long way to go. Of course, this is the benefit of being Mum and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa. She was breathtakingly beautiful and an incredible dancer at four, and every time we see her dance, we’re absolutely dazzled. We’re not her teachers, or the judge. We don’t need to be critical. It’s our job to encourage, drive, and probably work about three jobs to get her through. However, you do that for your kid. You do whatever it takes to the best of your ability. Well, most of us at least try, and hopefully we can also support and encourage those who are left falling through the cracks, even if it’s only for a moment. We’ve certainly appreciated that ourselves many times over.
Anyway, since we’ve walked through that door, we’ve made many friends, and connected at a fairly deep and meaningful level over the years. Indeed, one of the things I found most difficult about covid last year, was not seeing all the other dance parents. We might see each other say for ten minutes in the waiting room after each class, which isn’t much. However, when you multiply that by a couple of classes a week over 11 years, those moments add up, and there’s been a lot of sharing. I have also done some adult classes over the years as well, and I’ve really loved them and made some wonderful friendships there. I’m not just a dance mum. I am a dancer (just not a very good one and also one with disability and health issues!! It’s quite ironic actually!)
So, walking through this one door, has opened many, many doors for us, and before I head off, I’ll also mention that our son also did hip-hop classes here with a former Billy Elliott from Melbourne and Broadway. He also made a friendship then, which resurfaced last year and last weekend we found ourselves comforting him after his Pop had a stroke and we drove Nan to the hospital. Our son was such a comfort to his friend, who ended up sleeping in our loungeroom that night.
“Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” Friedrich Nietzsche
All of that started by walking through this door.
I know this quote appears in a corny ad, but it’s very true: “From little things, big things grow…”
My profuse apologies. If I’d invited you round earlier this weekend, you could’ve been having some caramel slice with your beverage of choice. Unfortunately, the last piece went last night so I can only offer you Vegemite on toast, which for most of you will evoke grimaces of torture.
How was your week?
Last week, was the first week of school holidays. Our daughter spent much of the week in Sydney with my parents. This is code for going shopping with my mum, and they seem to get caught up in the moment. My daughter doesn’t go completely overboard, but she gets mighty close and there always seems to be something my mum doesn’t quite get her head around. This time it was ear pods. The teenager is an expense beast.
Meanwhile, her brother was sick at home and was very kind to share his bugs with me. With my health issues particularly the lung disease, chest infections can become life threatening but there’s also a lot that can be done to ward them off even without taken antibiotics. So today, I took my spoonful of olive leaf extract and I’ve also got a few other tricks up my sleeve. Wish me luck. I’ve dodged a few bullets over the last couple of years, avoiding a serious problem. Phew!
On Friday, our nephew was visiting from Canada. We took him for a bush walk with magnificent views over Pearl Beach and Broken Bay, which is just around the corner from our place. Towering over steep bush-covered cliffs tumbling down into the ocean, the views are absolutely majestic.
Paradise. Pearl Beach is in the foreground looking out towards Lion Island. The body of water RHS is Pittwater.
You really get that sense which Keats describes so beautifully in: On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
Our daughter is in the front row second from the left.
Friday night, Mother Swan was back for the Central Dance Company’s final performance of Swan Lake & More. In case you’re the only person on the planet who doesn’t know our daughter was part of the corps de ballet, now you know. Being the third performance, I went solo this time, although the dance school filled the row behind me. It did take me long, however, to strike up conversations with the four people beside me. That’s what I call my gift of being able to talk to strangers. It comes in handy and we were all quite friendly by the end of the show.
Guest Artists Cieran Edinger, Gary Bowles and Rebekah Petty photographed with Artistic Director, Patti Gleeson (second from the left).
They had the cast party afterwards. At this point, I became official photographer. We were also celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Central Dance Company. So, I was photographing dancers, the cutting of the cake and that’s when my daughter pointed out that my camera lens was smashed. Yikes. My anxiety almost hit the roof, except the lens has a lens protector and I was fairly sure that the lens would be okay. However, I couldn’t work this out at the time because the lens protector was jammed onto the lens and wouldn’t come off. I had to confess all to my husband when I arrived home and he asked: “What have you broken this time?” Phew. It wasn’t the lens.
After watching three shows of Swan Lake & More what with the sensational dancing, magnificent music and all those emotions both on stage and watching our daughter and her friends, I was completely overstimulated on Saturday and my mind was flying. During the last week, I’ve written two skits for the Scout Gang Show, 3 poems and a short story for the Australian Writer’s Centre’s Furious Fiction Competition.
Speaking of of the Furious Fiction Competition, I’m furious with myself. I misread the deadline and was also second-guessing myself and caught up in my perfectionist nitpicking and I missed out. That’s particularly annoying because the competition has a setting and a list of words which need to be included. There’s also a $500.00 prize. I’d have been lucky to win the prize, but I was pretty pleased with my effort which I’d set in the Shakespeare and Company Bookshop in Paris where I’d done a poetry reading in my early twenties. Oh well. All is not lost. I’ll have to see what else I can do with it. Perhaps, it will suit another prompt down the track.
Jazz in the Arboretum, Pearl Beach.
In addition to going to the ballet and doing so much writing during the week, I also managed to go to Jazz in the Pearl Beach Arboretum yesterday. My school friend’s son was performing and she initially invited me out for coffee, but a free ticket came up and off I went. That was great, because although this annual concert is local, I’ve never been before and it was great to check it out. The show was essentially John Morrison with the All Stars and the Australia Institute of Music’s Big Band (which included my friend’s son). In addition to the fantastic music, the bush setting was wonderful sitting on the grass surrounded by towering gum trees. At one point, a kookaburra appeared and was working hard to extract a large morsel from the ground, which might have been a beetle. Of course, the kookaburra thought he was the star of the show.
Performers Jazz in the Arboretum, Pearl Beach.
So, as it turns out, I had an eventful week.
What did you get up to? I look forward to hearing from you!
This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.
“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.
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.
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.
PS I hope to get a photo of our daughter in her Swan Lake tutu soon.
If we were having coffee this week, I’d be showing you some beautiful photos of my swan. You see, our daughter performed in Swan Lake & More with the Central Dance Company on Saturday and in all seriousness, I wish I could just bathe in that magnificent music and gaze at that dancing forever. It was magic. Well, not pure magic because they’ve been rehearsing every Sunday for five months. There’s also been a few injuries, not to mention the usual aching feet. Ballet is legalized torture, especially for the feet.
Our daughter dancing in Swan Lake Act 1: The Waltz.
The night before her performance, I wrote a post capturing all those anticipatory emotions and thoughts including a photographic tour of her ballet journey so far from when she started out at four to where she is now at 13, a year after she stepped into her first pair of pointe shoes.
I have also been transformed by her journey. Not just as a bystander. I’ve also done some adult classes myself. There’s been ballet, lyrical, contemporary and tap. I’ve learned so much through these classes and have made the transition from being a taxi-driving dance mum to becoming a dancer myself both in terms of physical capability and in spirit. I’ve also watched a lot of dance to and find myself observing ballet type poses out in nature in how a dying flower might bow its head and wilt or how a towering tree raises its branches up into the sky.
Anyway, she still has one more performance to go. Otherwise, my mood would be a lot more sombre.
Meanwhile, yesterday I sat in on a script writing meeting with the Gang Show looking at generating material for next year’s show. That was quite interesting because I have quite strong views about promoting and maintaining Australian culture and fighting back against the tide of American culture. These aren’t always shared so I have to keep a lid on it. However, that doesn’t stop me from voicing my opinion here. I also feel our days of excluding our Indigenous Aboriginal people from our popular culture are gone. However, if we don’t have any Aboriginal people in the Gang Show, that’s pretty difficult to do. We can’t have someone dress up and pretend. We just have to leave it out. It was also interesting talking about our contemporary world and incorporating some of that into the show.
Aside from a poor excuse for a play I wrote back at uni, I haven’t done any script writing before. So, writing these skits is new ground. Moreover, I’ve never been in Guides or Scouts and my only understanding of the movement is limited to my observations as a parent. However, although writing these skits is going to be challenging, I’m determined to give it a shot. See what I’m made of. I’ve been working on some concepts today and they’re coming together surprisingly well. I’ll keep you posted.
Last week, I drove over to Terrigal for a hair cut and explored the beach afterward. Terrigal is 88kms North of Sydney and really is a beautiful spot. While our beach is less built up and developed, Terrigal has it’s stunning honeycomb cliffs and memories of going there for holidays throughout my childhood back when we didn’t know the dangers of coating ourselves in coconut oil and getting fried under the harsh Australian sun. I also remember almost drifting out to sea with my brother on these inflatable lilo things. It was a simpler world back then. Well, at least it was for me.
The kids started school holidays today. Next week, my husband and son will be heading up to Bathurst for the Bathurst 1000, a 1,000-kilometre touring car race held annually on the Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia. It is currently run as a championship event for Supercars. They can’t wait and will be camping out there with Geoff’s sister and her son along with their friends. It was all too much for me and I’m staying home with our daughter who will be performing in a dance production.
Anyway, I’d better keep moving and finalise dinner. I had a crazy idea of making an apple pie and while I’ve had assistance with the apples, it still has a way to go.
This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.
“Consciousness expresses itself through creation. This world we live in
is the dance of the creator. Dancers come and go in the twinkling of an
eye but the dance lives on. On many an occasion when I am dancing, I
have felt touched by something sacred. In those moments, I felt my
spirit soar and become one with everything that exists.”
Tomorrow, our daughter takes to the stage in Swan Lake Act II and as her greatest fan, I absolutely can’t wait. She will be performing with the Central Dance Company where professional dancers fill the lead roles while the youth form the corps de ballet. This gives the young dancers a taste of what it’s like to be in a professional ballet company and step out beyond the walls of their own studios. Moreover, it also provides additional hours of expert teaching, and improvement simply through the sheer number of hours of rehearsal. If you have read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, you’ll know all about that magic 10,000 hours of practice which lifts you out of mediocrity into the meteoric heavens.
“Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all
obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of
inviting the perfection desired.”
― Martha Graham
However, there are some downsides to pushing yourself to the max and beyond. Not unsurprisingly when you push your body so far, there’s that omnipresent risk of injury. There’s also a fine line between pursuing your passion and giving it everything you’ve got, and flying straight into the candle flame and burning up. Just ask the moth.
Yet, in pursuing a career as a professional ballerina, staying upright on top of that pointe shoe is about the only kind of balance available. Ultimately, as in any other demanding field, you sink or swim. However, the extremes are far more intense and burn out can be psychologically and physically destructive, which was almost portrayed too well in the movie Black Swan.
“Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
If you have seen Black Swan, you well might ask why I signed our daughter up for ballet. Why would I put her through all of that, when she could have followed her previous dream of becoming an astrophysicist?
Our daughter at her first ballet concert aged 4.
The truth is that as a parent, I don’t really have a lot of say in all of this. All I did was book her into a local ballet class when she was three turning four. The earth didn’t quiver and shake as she disappeared with her teacher and the other kids behind the closed door, although I do remember wanting to go in there and see what was going on. We even have the concert video from that very first year of ballet, and while she was very cute up on stage in her tutu, she wasn’t extraordinary. She even made mistakes.
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
If we fast-forward to when she was about 10, she was very unwell and also couldn’t seem to get to class or would get there with one or both shoes missing and her hair all tangled up in a veritable bird’s nest. However, despite these outward appearances, her teacher and I still managed to see the dancer within, just like Michaelangelo saw his angel in that lump of stone. It was hard to spot, but she was there. It was also thanks to a few of her friends who took her under their wing, that she was able to catch up for the end of year concert. I’m still not sure how things turned around. However, it was like a switch had been turned on. Or, she’d been struck by some kind of cosmic lightning. A passion for dance was ignighted, and she’s never turned back. She absolutely loves dance to an extent where it goes far beyond just being her thing to somehow becoming part of her being.
“Hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, they danced by the light of the moon.” Edward Lear
Every time I see my daughter dance, I celebrate this progression from struggling to hold her fingers in a diamond shape above her head, to the young woman who is now en pointe and learning the cygnet routine from Swan Lake. There’s a lot of pride in that, but also an acknowledgment of the sheer hard work we’ve all put in right down to driving her to classes and rehearsals, and almost piercing my fingers and drawing blood sewing ribbons and elastics on shoes. Our swan didn’t just fall out of a box of cereal and land on her feet.
Getting her first pointe shoes was such a special day.
On a more personal note, seeing our daughter dance in Swan Lake in a beautiful white tutu is like a precursor of seeing what she would be like walking down the aisle on her wedding day. Naturally, I remember our wedding day. I was so happy my face was aching and I loved getting all dressed up in my absolutely beautiful dress and in a sense being the swan for the day. However, since our daughter’s arrival, I’ve had my moments of playing the dying swan. On too many occasions, I’ve been living it as I battle along with dermatomyositis and associated lung fibrosis. It is impossible to describe what it’s like as a seriously ill mum to face leaving your young children behind and you’ll never be waiting for them at the school gate again. Indeed, to be very honest, we didn’t think I was going to make it this far. Yet, despite time being my enemy, I’ve actually improved quite a lot overall and am strangely doing okay. However, that doesn’t mean that when it comes to seeing my daughter all dressed up as a white swan, that I’m not going to make the most of that. Carpe diem seize the day. This memory will be etched into my retinas and in my heart. After all, before she became my swan, she always was and still remains my girl. My family are my greatest treasures.
Dance Mum and daughter
It is very easy to get caught up in the hoopla of dance. Being a Dance Mom and allowing your love and pride for your own child, overtake all sense of reason and perspective. Our daughter takes part in eisteddfods and of course, I think she’s the best and I felt a bit devastated when she doesn’t place. “You got rocks in your head?!!!” Of course, I don’t say anything and we talk it up. However, it’s important to keep all of this dance stuff in perspective and what really matters to me, is that my kids are decent people. That they stop and help others, don’t set out to win at all costs and are good losers. Of course, I’d love them to be happy, but I’m more of a realist and simply hope they get through life’s up and downs relatively unscathed and can keep smiling.
Above: When our daughter performs in Swan Lake, she’ll dip her toe into the very same pond traversed by the likes of Anna Pavlova (who even had her own pet swan) and Dame Margot Fonteyn.
In a sense, we have been very lucky that the dance school we attend encourages teamwork and kindness. I just took her down to the local dance school and didn’t shop around or ask for advice. Our choice was all based on convenience. However, our dance school actively promotes supportive and encouraging friendships and the parents are friendly and help each other out. Indeed, we’ve been sharing lifts back and forth to rehearsals for Swan Lake and we’ve got to know each other better. It’s been great. I don’t think we’d have stuck with dance if our studio had been anything like what you see in Dance Moms. Values come first.
“You dance love, and you dance joy, and you dance dreams. And I know
if I can make you smile by jumping over a couple of couches or running
through a rainstorm, then I’ll be very glad to be a song and dance man.”
Reading back through all of this, I realized that I haven’t really touched on what dance does for the spirit and how it can create that all-encompassing joie de vivre or even a sense of absolute peace. I have been doing some adult classes and really only dipping my toe into dance, but I have also had a taste of the magic which inspires my daughter. It’s electric.
So, we now only have one more sleep until our daughter becomes a swan whatever that entails. However, I know that for me, it will be pure magic.
My Goodness! I don’t know where today went, but it feels like it disappeared like a rat up a drainpipe and I’m left sitting at my desk peering through the window up into a sky of scrambled blue and white wondering what happened.
My apologies. You’re a bit early for cake. I’ve taken the eggs out and they’re slowly warming to room temperature. I’m going to make another sponge cake with passionfruit icing. I made one about a month ago and the cake wasn’t quite right and I’d like to perfect it. It was my mother’s specialty, and like many great bakers, they add these magic ingredients and fiddle with the process in some way that it is almost impossible to replicate. Fortunately, Mum is still with us but she hasn’t baked a sponge in over five years and I think she’s lost the knack. I’m just waiting for the right time and I might just be able to extract her secret, although I might also need to get her back behind the wheel of her Sunbeam Mixmaster.
How was your week?
Despite the photo of me cruising along on a boat, last week was quite stressful as I had my review for the NDIS. That’s the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It was put in place to help people with disabilities lead more independent lives and to reduce the economic impact of buying equipment etc and I guess it also aims to get people back into the community, back to work and functioning at their best, which is also what gives many of us a better quality of life and an increased personal well-being. While the NDIS has helped in many ways, it’s also challenged medical reports provided by the best specialists Australia has got and refused to acknowledge certain disabilities such as epilepsy at all and for me personally, they don’t see to understand that I can walk okay but getting out of chairs, especially multiple times during the day and especially on bad days, is a strain and I usually tend to stay put. I have a lift chair but I got it through Freecycle and it’s 15 years old and pretty disgusting after being here for three years. The NDIS doesn’t seem to acknowledge the importance of parenting responsibilities and the need to be with my family and not shut away in bed. So, I have a few fires to fight and am currently well enough and fired up enough to fight them, which isn’t always the case. Wish me luck.
In between working on my review, I’ve also been fired up on my family history again. You’d wonder if there was still a leaf unturned after researching all these years. However, my Dad’s second cousin got in touch the other day and that’s fired up a whole new line of inquiry. His mother’s parents passed away when she was a child and she was adopted by my Great Grandparents. However, although I’d heard of Nancy growing up, I didn’t know how she fitted in and they lived in Victoria somewhere and my parents didn’t travel very much back then. However, I did have a few photos of Nancy as a young girl and I wanted to get them through to her family, which has now happened which is great. While working on all of this, I realized that my Grandfather’s grandparents were actually Irish and not just in the sense of being of Irish descent, but had actually been born there. Edward Quailey (or Quealey) came from County Clare and Margaret O’Neil was from County Limmerick and they married in Christchurch, New Zealand before coming to Sydney. Most of my ancestors came out to Australia much earlier and my sense of them being from over there is more of an intellectual awareness than a lived and breathed experience with its inherent cultural and social values and experiences. Of course, it would help if I’d been to Ireland, but at the moment, that is but a dream but not too distant I hope.
Our son sailing his Laser.
This brings me through to Saturday when our son had his first sail for the season. Just to remind you, that it’s Spring here and things are starting to warm up and get re-energized around here including the start of the sailing season. Our son has been sailing in a Flying 11 for the last couple of years along with a crew member. That was getting too small and uncompetitive for them and now he’s sailing solo in a laser. It was great to get back to Gosford Sailing Club yesterday on a beautiful sunny day and catch up with our sailing cronies. Much to much delight and surprise, I actually made it out onto the water in a powerboat. As you can tell by my smile, I had an incredible time. I’ve never actually been out on the water there and it was interesting to check the area out as well as being able to terrorize our son the Laser and get some great photos up close.
This photo was taken when my daughter auditioned for Central Dance Company. Stay tuned for the swan.
Meanwhile, yesterday was our daughter’s last Sunday rehearsal before next Saturday’s performance of Swan Lake with the Central Dance Company. They will be performing next Saturday at the Art House in Wyong, which is about a 40-minute drive from here. I can’t wait to see her and the production, which is why I’ve booked myself in for the matinee and we’ll be attending the evening show as a family. I figure I’ll be watching her for the first show and will be able to enjoy the whole show for the second performance. They’ll also be performing Laycock Street the following Friday night and guess what…I’ll be there too. It’s not that I’m one of those over the top dance mums. I just figure this might be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see my daughter as a swan and I want to make the most of it. By the way, that also means I’m off to the hairdresser tomorrow. I don’t want the mother of the Swan looking like a dead duck!
The epic hole and the buried dog blanket.
Over the weekend, I wrote a post about our dogs digging up the backyard and wanting to identify the guilty party. Well, it appears that Rosie has well and truly dobbed herself it today after she dug an adjacent hole with very fast-moving paws and I think you’ll agree that it could accommodate a small cat. Maybe, I shouldn’t have mentioned “cat” and just left it as something more nebulous like a giant dinosaur bone. We have nothing against cats.
Anyway, that’s our week done and dusted. What did you get up to? Did anyone or their kids getting involved in these protests against climate change? My daughter really wanted to go but she’s missing school for the show this week and I was also concerned about her getting there. They didn’t seem to have a reliable group of friends organized. It struck me as a time when predators could be out preying on kids and that concerned me. As it turned out, there were so many people there and parents went along as well so it would’ve been fine. We’ll know for next time.
This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali We’d love you to come along and join us.
David was joking when he’d asked ballerina, Vanessa Rossi, away camping for the weekend. Never thought she’d agree. Moreover, when she arrived flagrantly overdressed, he was relieved he’d also booked into a hotel.
“You can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl,” he laughed.
Vanessa smiled, sipping champagne while David wrestled unsuccessfully with the tent. Once a Scout, always a Scout, Vanessa could pitch a tent blindfolded. However, she said nothing. He was her Prince, and she was his swan. Enthralled, they danced around the crumpled tent in the moonlight.
I was fiddling around with this one for quite awhile tonight and feel it has good potential as a short story. It was actually inspired by a story my husband tells of a school camp trip when this group of trendy girls had an expensive, upmarket tent but didn’t set it up properly and it fell over during the night and the boys had to come to the rescue. I haven’t had much camping experience myself. However, I was driving across the Nullarbor Plain on the way from Sydney to Perth and we camped by the road for the night. I always thought it was hot in the desert and was almost paralyzed by the cold. To compound my discomfort, I’d worn this fancy jumper with decorative holes and the wind howled through them. I was told “You can take the girl out of the North Shore but you can’t take the North Shore out of the girl.” That’s the part of Sydney I grew up and let’s just say it wasn’t rough and tumble. Meanwhile, the girl in this story is loosely inspired by our daughter who at 13 is still yet to step out in the world but is currently rehearsing to appear in Swan Lake in a local youth production and has been a scout until the start of this year. She got into scouts through her brother, and while she enjoyed it, I was also keen for her to do it as a counter-point to her dancing. Felt it was good for her to get out into the bush hiking and camping and stepping beyond the studio.
I hope you enjoy it and that it hasn’t suffered too much trying to cut it back to 100 words. It’s been heavily edited.
Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share! Please make yourself at home. What would you like to drink? I’ve become quite a tea drinker lately as coffee doesn’t agree with me. That said, I do risk it occasionally at a cafe. I still love a good coffee!
My apologies once again for going off the grid. However, last Sunday was Mothers’ Day here in Australia and after the kids made me pancakes with Nutella and raspberries for breakfast here, we drove down to Sydney to see my Mum, Dad and brother for lunch and a rambling afternoon. Understandably, the weekend was swallowed up and I can’t remember what else happened. I’ve been a bit under the weather with a cold so I could well have been asleep.
It’s not quite Winter here in Sydney but we’re getting a few cold mornings and a few chilly nights just to remind us that Winter isn’t far away. Yet, it’s a beautiful sunny day outside, which certainly begs the question what am I doing locked away inside? Why aren’t I out there soaking up all those precious rays before they disappear?
Well, I have the best of both worlds sitting here as the sun is streaming through the window and it’s really very pleasant. I’m still in my PJs at almost 3.00 pm and had a big sleep in after dropping my daughter at the dance studio at the crack of dawn (any time before 9.00 am on a Saturday morning but 7.30 was particularly cruel!!) Fortunately, we live just around the corner and if she didn’t have such a big day ahead, I’d be telling her to walk. However, please excuse the pun, but that could be just around the corner.
My book project is coming along very well. It’s now shifted from biographical short fiction into short non-fiction with a series of biographical sketches of our ancestors and relatives put within their historical context and shaken up a bit. Both my husband and I come from huge families who arrived early on in terms of Australia’s European history and we’re just lucky that many of them were in the right or (actually from their perspective the wrong place) at the right time. Although most of the characters I’ve researched most are more recent, I’ve decided to start off with our first arrivals who I knew relatively little about. Moreover, they’ve taken me on a course I hadn’t researched much before as well. This means that while I set off on this book project thinking I was already well underway and it would take a lot to get a book out, the reality is very different. I guess it always is. The job takes longer and costs blow out. Just ask a builder.
Yet, I’m exciting and researching and working on these stories is quite exhilarating. I’ve also had to think about why I’m doing this, other than needing to write and finish a book for my own sense of being able to see it through to the end and published. What attracted me to these characters? Why invest so much of my time, energy and my very self in telling their stories?
The answer is that these people are all great battlers. Many endured incredible hardships yet persevered and soldiered on. They didn’t give up. I find them so encouraging and they lift me up. A bad day doesn’t have to be the end of the world.
These people are also incredibly human and I think it makes a huge difference that they’re real and that I haven’t transposed their stories into quasi-fictional stories. The reader knows this is true and has something real to hold onto. That said, truth always is a matter of perspective and how you source their particulars.
I am having a pretty quiet day today. I’m about to head off to vote in the Australian Federal Election. I almost forgot to mention this and I’ve been doing my best to avoid just about anything to do with it. I am completely disenchanted with both major parties and don’t trust either of the main contenders for Prime Minister. However, our local member has done a great job and I question whether she should lose her seat based on her boss. We live in a marginal seat where our votes count and so I actually do need to take my vote seriously. I think I’ve fallen into the camp of voters going independent to send the major parties “a message”. Voting independent is a more civilized way of cracking an egg on the leaders’ heads, which has been quite a feature during this election campaign. You might’ve heard about Egg Boy who cracked an egg on a senator’s head after his dreadful remarks re the Christchurch Massacre. A woman also egged the Prime Minister. The egg didn’t crack which also aroused some interest. Just to keep the campaign interesting, we’ve also had the appearance of chickenman, although he obviously isn’t responsible for laying any eggs. He’s apparently a young Liberal supporting former PM Tony Abbott. I’m not even going to touch on the intense fighting for the seat of Warringah held by Tony Abbott, except to say that I wish I could vote for his rival former Olympic skier, Zali Steggal. Tony Abbott is long past his expiry date.
Tomorrow, on the other hand, is going to be huge. Our daughter received a call back for an audition for a local ballet company which is putting on Swan Lake. This is such a huge opportunity, but I also need to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. While I’m not auditioning on stage, I too will be under the microscope and most of my day will be going up in smoke waiting. I know I’m written about the benefits of waiting before but… I know. I know. I can get through another one of the unfinished books teetering on my bedside table. It would be incredible if she got in.
Before I head off, I just wanted to share with you that I went to the Sydney Writers’ Festival two weeks ago. If you’d like to dip your toe into what was a fabulous day, please click Here.
Thank you for joining me and I look forward to hearing what you’ve been up to. By the way, the photos throughout this week’s post were taken at the local wetlands this afternoon during our daughter’s audition.
PS Our daughter was successful in her audition and will be appearing in Swan Lake locally later in the year.
PPS Australian Federal Election done and dusted. Biggest surprise of all. We still have the same Prime Minister.
On Thursday night, I attended my first adult ballet class and absolutely loved it!
The kids were in bed when I arrived home and I had to wait ‘til breakfast to share my unbridled exhilaration and gauge their responses. I knew it was going to be priceless.
After all, Mummies don’t do ballet. They drive taxis!
Being the consummate drama queen and loving a bit of theatre, I arrived at the breakfast table standing in 1st position. My face was beaming. I was absolutely chuffed. Like magic, the heffalump had metamorphosed into a swan in Swan’s Lake. I was dancing at the Sydney Opera House…albeit in my pyjamas! No ballet bun, the birds were still tweeting in my hair.
Yet, reaching for the stars, I could have been that dainty plastic ballerina turning magically inside my childhood jewellery box. Turning round and round in circles to Love Story, she might have been plastic, but for so many little girls, she was the ultimate ballerina launching a thousand dreams.
“He was not bone and feather but a perfect idea of freedom and flight, limited by nothing at all”
― Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull
So there I am beaming in 1st position when my daughter pipes up:
“Mummy, did you really look like that?”
“I did,” I replied, feeling like I’d confessed to wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes down the main street. Clearly, I’d broken through quite a few barriers and the look on her face was priceless…a mix of confusion, disbelief and horror. What had I done?
To her credit, she didn’t laugh, giggle or make fun of me, although she was clearly struggling to know quite how and where to file this revelation. It didn’t fit anything she’d ever filed under “Mummy” before.
Miss with dancing Shoes
Miss is ten years old and she’s been dancing since she was three. She’s currently doing ballet, modern and jazz. Dainty and petite, she looks like a dancer and the flame burns in her heart and her feet.
On the other hand, I’m 5ft 10inches tall, mid-40s, disabled and let’s just say I’m no twinkle toes. I last did ballet back in 1980 when I was her age. That was a sobering 36 years ago and a lot of water’s flowed under (and over) the bridge since then.You could say an entire ocean!
However, rather than being upset by her response, it’s probably a good reflection of just how many barriers I smashed taking on that class. Indeed, I’d totally shattered my daughter’s concept of Me, my capabilities and what it means to be a dancer. Mind you, to be perfectly honest, I’d also amazed myself. I fully expected to spend much of the lesson in a chair. If I could hold my hands properly at the end of the 6 weeks, I’d be stoked. Instead, I’d even attempted the basics of a pirouette.
Mummy & Miss
“Why, Jon, why?” his mother asked. “Why is it so hard to be like the rest of the flock, Jon? Why can’t you leave low flying to the pelicans, the albatross? Why don’t you eat? Son, you’re bone and feathers!” “I don’t mind being bone and feathers mom. I just want to know what I can do in the air and what I can’t, that’s all. I just want to know.”
― Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Being my usual theatrical self, I couldn’t stop at 1st position. I had to demonstrate a pirouette. Well, I don’t think I managed to turn or quite get my raised leg in the right spot but the intention was there.
“That’s that thing with the eyes,” said my son.
He leaps out of his chair and perfectly demonstrates how you focus on a spot while you’re turning and quickly turn your head around.
Mr at Hip Hop aged about 6.
What THE? How did my gaming son find out about the fine art of pirouettes? I shouldn’t have been surprised. He did a boys’ hip-hop class at the dance school and the kids have watched a few dance shows. My son’s friend is also in Dance Team at the dance school.
Besides, as I said, ballet isn’t just for petite little girls. It’s equally for boys and men and is incredibly athletic. Why shouldn’t he take an interest?
Moreover, boys and men need and deserve to express their creative, emotional sides just as much as girls and women. They shouldn’t be repressed with their wings clipped anymore than I!
It’s all very well to talk about equality, acceptance and respect but the rubber needs to hit the road. Ideals must translate into action.
“Instead of our drab slogging forth and back to the fishing boats, there’s reason to live!
We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can learn to be free! we can learn to fly!”
― Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull
May we all stretch our wings and learn to fly beyond the confines of our minds!