Tag Archives: Sydney Opera House

Z- Taronga Zoo, Sydney…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome back to Place I’ve Been,  my theme for the 2020 Blogging From A to Z April Challenge. Today, we’ve finally reached the end of the road. Z is our last stop, and today we’re heading of to Taronga Zoo, with its magnificent views across Sydney Harbour.

Giraffes Taronga Sydney Opera House

The Giraffes can look across Sydney Harbour to the Opera House.

Today, we’re hopping back in the time machine and switching the clock back to 2009 when we went to the zoo to celebrate our son’s 5th birthday with my parents. By the way, this isn’t the first time I’ve reflected on this very special birthday celebration and you can read about it: HERE. This was the kids’ first time to the zoo and my last, although Mum  bought annual passes for herself and the kids, and a trip to the zoo became a special day out with “Mama”.

 

That’s where zoos become rather enchanting and it’s absolutely magical to see such a diversity of animals from right around the world almost within arm’s reach where you can almost feel part of their orbit. However, on the flip side, animals belong in the wild and deserve to be free. After all, I certainly wouldn’t want some other species to keep me in confinement for their own personal entertainment (even if I do sometimes wonder if that’s what the dogs are up to when I keep throwing the ball).

Jonathon & Amelia Sunbear

However, just to really confuse the picture, zoos have now become sanctuaries for endangered species and are running breeding programs. Animal habitats in zoos have also improved significantly over the years. I still remember seeing the orangutan’s in their previous caged enclosure at Taronga back when I was at university many years ago now, and seeing their sad eyes peering out between the gaps.

It is also possible that we idealise life in the wild. After all, it’s not free of predators, loss of habitat, food and water shortages either.

Amelia & Bear

Thomas French addressed these contradictions in  Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives:

“Despite all their flaws, zoos wake us up. They invite us to step outside our most basic assumptions. Offered for our contemplation, the animals remind us of nature’s impossibly varied schemes for survival, all the strategies that species rely upon for courtship and mating and protecting the young and establishing dominance and hunting for something to eat and avoiding being eaten. On a good day, zoos shake people into recognizing the manifold possibilities of existence, what it’s like to walk across the Earth, or swim in its oceans of fly above its forests—even though most animals on display will never have the chance to do any of those things again, at least not in the wild.”
― Thomas French, Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives

handprints & pawprints

Hand Prints & Paw Prints.

I also came across this from excerpt about a lion at the zoo:

“See this abdicated beast, once king
Of them all, nibble his claws:
Not anger enough left—no, nor despair—
To break his teeth on the bars.”
― Cecil Day-Lewis, The Complete Poems of C. Day Lewis

So, I’m not sure where that leaves us.

Indeed, perhaps it’s a good time to offer you a piece of birthday cake, or perhaps some pavlova?

Jessie the elephant

Jessie the Elephant.

Meanwhile, I want to share an interesting story with you about the opening of the zoo back in 1916 and the challenges they faced moving the animals from their previous location at Moore Park in the city, on the other side of Sydney Harbour a good 15 years or so before the Sydney Harbour Bridge had been constructed and ferry was the only way across the harbour.

I’m not sure whether I should start a guessing competition to see which of the animals was the most difficult to relocate and why. However, it wasn’t the lions and tigers. It was Jessie the much beloved and only surviving elephant. Rather than paraphrasing, I thought I’d share the full story with you even if it does add significantly to the word count. It appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 10th November, 1911. It takes you away to another time and place, and if you’re anything like me, I’m always willing to travel.

REMOVING JESSIE. HOW IT WILL BE DONE.

THE NEW ZOO SITE. WORK. TO START IN JANUARY

 

The animals went in one by one – into the Sydney Zoo – but they will all go out together.

Presently they will be in the midst of packing up and moving. They are to have a new home. From Moore Park they are to go to Ashton Park, which is on the other side of the harbour.

The elephants went in one by one, and one by one they died, until today only one remains. Every Sydney child knows Jessie. She is one of the oldest inhabitants of the Zoo, having been there for 30 yoars. And the question is, How will she take this breaking up of the old home?

Jessie, the elephant, is not only the biggest animal in the Zoological Gardens, she is also the biggest problem in the way of “moving.” You can manage the monkeys and the apes, for they will do as they are told, you can open the door of the tiger’s cage, or that of the lion, and tiger or lion will walk obligingly into a portable cage, ready to be carried away; the crocodiles and the pythons present no insuperable difficulty, so long as they are handled with care. But you can’t put four tons of elephant into a cage – or, if you could, you wouldn’t be able to move the cage afterwards.

So Jessie will walk. It remains to to be seen how the airing will agree with her. She is not familiar with trams, or lorries, or motor cars. She has never paraded up and down our busy streets, and the strangeness of it all may not be to her liking. She is, however, a wonderfully good and sensible elephant, and it is not anticipated that she will give much trouble. But, in order to keep her in a good humour, she is to be given two nurses, who will walk one on either side of her – two of Wirth Brothers circus elephants if they are to be had. The only fear is lest evil communications may corrupt Jessie’s good manners, and lead to her running away to join the circus.

Jonathon Fenec Fox ears

My What Big Ears He has!

A START IN JANUARY

Anyway this is not to be for some time yet. The decision to move the Zoo from Moore Park to Ashton Park – that magnificent stretch of natural bush lying between Whiting Beach and Athol Gardens – has only just been arrived at; but assuming that it is gazetted without undue delay, it is hoped to make a start in preparing the new home for the denizens of the Zoo in January next – building, surveying, fencing and cleaning. First, there will be a topographical survey and then part of the area – the site to be set apart for the Zoo is 60 acres in extent, the total area of the park being 140 acres – will be fenced, probably 40 acres of it. The other 20 acres will be kept as required for zoological purposes. As soon as the surveying and cleaning of the land has been completed, the laying out of the grounds will be proceeded with. Paths will be made, and the quarters fixed for the various orders of animals: and when the money is available the buildings will be erected.

Taronga Zoo Dome

The Government intends to do all it can towards making the Zoological Gardens of Sydney not only the first in Australia, but, ultimately, one of the first institutions of this kind in the world. Indeed, no other Zoo in the world can boast such a magnificent site as this one at Ashton Park. There are zoological gardens covering a larger area – as at Bronx Park, New York – but there is none as beautiful. It is proposed to begin with an initial outlay of £20,000 or £30,000, spread over a period of four years, and this is a modest enough beginning. ‘We must cut our coat according to our cloth,” said one of the directors yesterday. “In time Government and people will come to realise what a fine asset these gardens can be made.”

The council of the Zoological Gardens is fortunate in numbering among its members two such enthusiasts as Mr Fred Flowers (Chief Secretary ) and Mr Hoyle, M L.A , both of whom have thrown themselves heart and soul into this forward movement.

NATURAL BEAUTY

The natural beauty of the site will remain. From the harbour one will see no sign of habitation. No bricks, no red tiled roofs, will mar the beauty of the bush. There will be no high buildings. Nothing will be used except the rock which is lying there. Green trees and rugged rocks will be all that will meet the eye. There will be as little fencing as possible and wherever it is feasible sunken fencing will be introduced, leaving nothing to interrupt the view. Straight lines and all formality will be tabooed. There will probably be no flower gardens – only the natural features of the ground showing the Australian bush.

It is probably that there will be a special endeavour to make the new Zoological Gardens typically Australian, with masses of beautiful wattle trees, bright-flowering eucalypts and brilliant creepers everywhere in evidence. Here we shall be given to us a piece of Australian bush under the very best conditions. The creek running through the centre of the ground will become a fern gully, with an abundance of tree ferns, staghorns, and palms. We shall have birds’ nests in plenty. Lyre birds and many other Australian species will flit from bough to bough. Large ponds will be made by blocking the creek, and the ponds will be full of our water-lilies. Upon them and around them will be a multitude of birds, foreign as well as Australian.

Another advantage in not having flower gardens will be that many of our Australian animals, such as the native bear, the opossum and rock wallabies will have the run of the whole grounds, though there will be little sanctuaries for them to go into when the grounds are unusually full of visitors.

BARLESS CAGES

For the housing of the carnivora, the latest system of barless cages will be adopted, as in Hagenbeck’s world-famous gardens at Hamburg, There are natural rocky enclosures in the park, and these with little difficulty, can be made into large cages – walls of rock, with moats, are aimed at the different orders of the animals will be grouped together, so as to make the whole collection valuable from an educational standpoint.

The birds will be kept in large cages, enclosing trees. Instead of having one small cage for each species, a whole family of birds will be put into one large cage – all classes of cockatoos, for instance – and they will have ample room for flying among the trees. There will also be cages where many different species of birds will be seen together.

Three years ago the Director of the Zoological Gardens, Mr Le Souef, took a trip to Eugland and Europe, and visited the principal gardens. Speaking to a “Herald” representative yesterday, he said ‘The whole point of usefulness, as far as I was concerned, centred in Hagenbeck’s Gardens in Hamburg. I consider that the style adopted there must sooner or later be copied by every zoo in the world. It is a privately owned zoo. Like his father before him, Hagenbeck has all his life been dealing with animals, and he conceived the idea of this new type of barless cage that we propose to introduce in Sydney. It completely revolutionised all previous ideas of housing animals.”

MUSIC IN THE OPEN AIR

Mr Le Soeuf makes another interesting proposal. “All the gardens of Europe contain excellent features in the accommodation provided for out-of-door life” he said. “All the music and refreshments arrangements are out of doors. For instance, in the Berlin Gardens there were two magnificent bands, around which were about ten thousand chairs and little tables. The people go in there of an afternoon or evening, and drink beer or coffee while listening to the music. There are red tables and white tables, if you sit down at a red one it signifies that you drink coffee, if at a white one it signifies that you drink beer, It saves time and trouble – your coffee or beer is brought to you at once.

“Sydney has never had an opportunity of enjoying this kind of thing, and I would like to see it introduced in connection with our new gardens. In our climate it is exactly the thing required, instead of sitting in stuffy restaurants.”

Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Friday 10 November 1911, page 8

 

Jonathon Giraffe Taronga

…….

This brings me to the zoo today which is closed due to the coronavirus just like all museums, galleries and places where the public congregate and actually have fun. However, they’ve taken Taronga online and you can check out some of the animals on  Taronga TV . I’m sure many parents have appreciated having the zoo online with the family kept at home on lock down. It’s a great idea, I’m just a bit surprised they haven’t featured our Australian animals. So, just to make sure you’re not disappointed, I’ve included a link to a koala talk at the Australian Reptile Park.

Anyway, on that note, it’s time for me to hit the sack. Actually, that time’s been and gone and it’s very late.

So, this brings the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge for 2020 to an end, although I think I might continue this series. I’ve really enjoyed it.

The End

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

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

 

S- Sydney Harbour…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome back to my travel series for the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge, Places I’ve Been. Today, we sail into glorious  Sydney Harbour, undoubtedly one of the most stunningly beautiful places we’ve been so far, and for me, it’s home. Well, not exactly home, as I’ve never had the privilege of living right on the Harbour. However, it’s close enough.

Rowena Sydney Harbour Bridge

This photo was taken at Lavender Bay on the Northern side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and you can see the ferris wheel at Luna Park beneath the bridge. As you can see, I wasn’t too well when this photo was taken. 

Today,  our journey sets out from Circular Quay. On our left, there’s the grand spanning arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, colloquially known as “the Coathanger” and on the right, we’re chugging past the majestic white sails of the Sydney Opera House. All of this is jaw-droppingly beautiful. However, for daily commuters heading across the bridge on the train, the harbour is often little more than a fuzz while they’re reading the newspaper, tinkering on their phones or simply trying to keep their noses free from a stranger’s armpit.

Soon, we pass a small island, Fort Denison which is a former penal site and defensive facility occupying a small island located north-east of the Royal Botanic Gardens and approximately 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) east of the Opera House. The island was formerly known in its indigenous name of Mat-te-wan-ye, and as Pinchgut Island. I’ve never been there. However, my mother took each of our kids there when they were younger for a special lunch.

DSC_5852

A yacht sailing on Sydney Harbour viewed from Mosman.

Oh dear. I’m not too sure where we should proceed and it’s impossible for me to point out places on the left and right of the harbour with such a vast expanse of water in between. Particularly, as you may recall, when I’m so spatially challenged and really don’t want to screw it up.

So, being ANZAC Day where Australia commemorates it’s service men and women who’ve served during all armed conflicts, I thought I’d stop pointed out the window and jump in my time machine instead. Take you back to the evening of the 31st May, 1942 when the Japanese Imperial Navy sent three midget submarines into Sydney Harbour from larger submarines which were lurking outside the heads. These midget submarines were built for stealth, barely squeezing in two crew members each.

Midget sub attack Sydney harbour

Japanese Midget Submarine in Sydney Harbour.

The first midget sub entered Sydney Harbour at 8pm, but got caught up in anti-submarine nets and attracted the attention of the HMAS Yarroma and Lolita. Once they realised they’d been caught, the Japanese crew activated an explosive, deliberately sinking the vessel and killing themselves.

The second managed to sneak past the nets and fired two torpedoes, which hit a Sydney ferry, killing nineteen Australian and two British naval officers. It then received fire from a number of Australian vessels and managed to escape, but never made it back to the mother sub.

The third and final midget sub entered Sydney Harbour at around 11pm. By this time, Sydney was ready. It had six depth charges (anti-submarine weapons) dropped on it, and was presumed sunk, until it made a comeback four hours later and tried to fire its torpedoes.  Since it was pretty banged up, the attack was a bust and the submarine was sunk by allied ships at around 3am 1.

Clearly, these attacks caused a bit of excitement.

Two years after the war, the story of a Japanese pilot appeared in the paper. He’d flown a Zero straight through Sydney Harbour undetected the night before the midget submarine attacks. Not a comforting thought, especially when you consider that the attack came around 6 months after surprise Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor on the 7th December, 1941. These were very dangerous and precarious times and when you look at the bridge, the Opera House and the bright blue water on a sunny day, it’s very hard to imagine that the war ever touched our doorstep..

It reads:

ATTACK ON SYDNEY – Japanese Story Of 1942 Raid

AUCKLAND, Tuesday (A.A.P.-Reuters). – Susumu Ito, proprietor of a little fish-ing tackle shop at Iwakuni, Japan, claims that he flew over Sydney Harbour the night be-fore the Japanese midget sub-marine attack on May 30, 1942. Ito, then a Japanese naval lieu-tenant, aged 24, told his story in Japan yesterday.

This is what he said:

“I was pilot of a Zero float-plane carried by a Japanese ocean-going submarine of 3,300 tons.

“We arrived off Mayor Island, Bay of Plenty (New Zealand), in pitch dark one morning late in May, 1942. Our submarine carried midget submarines which were designed to be used to attack naval ships at Auckland and Sydney.

AUCKLAND SLEPT

“Our warplane was launched from the submarine and I quickly reached Auckland. While the city slept I cruised overhead un-molested and never climbing above 1,000 feet. I was never challenged or disturbed by intercepting fighters.

“I soon located Devonport Naval Base and gave it special attention. For the better part of an hour I looked for warships, but found no-thing that would warrant attack by one of our midget submarines.

“I flew back to the mother sub-marine and reported that there were no warships at Auckland.

“The submarine commander then decided to proceed to Sydney. We crossed the Tasman and surfaced off Sydney Heads on May 29.

FLIGHT OVER SYDNEY

“Unlike Auckland, I found the Sydney air rather crowded. There were Australian planes doing night flying exercises, but I was not molested.

“The Australian pilots did not appear to notice me, although the long streamlined single float of my Zero should have been conspicuous.

“I sighted what I considered to be suitable targets in Sydney Harbour and lost no time in returning to the submarine and making my report.

“Midget submarines were released. Later I left in the mother submarine for Rabaul,”

Ito said he spent about an hour over Auckland. His flight over Sydney was “very much briefer.” Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Wednesday 16 July 1947, page 1

So, that all created a bit of excitement.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House viewed from a ferry looking East.

Perhaps, we’d better we’d better exit our time machine and go back to looking out the window. It’s a perfect, sunny, Sydney day.

Have you ever been to Sydney? Did she behave herself? Or did you experience four seasons in one day and possibly even a bush fire thrown in? I love you Sydney, but like all of us, she isn’t perfect.

Best wishes,

Rowena

References

Forgotten Sydney – The Attack On Sydney Harbour

https://www.navy.gov.au/history/feature-histories/japanese-midget-submarine-attack-sydney-harbour

Aussie Street Library, Pearl Beach …Thursday Doors.

“Be an opener of doors” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Welcome back to Thursday Doors. This week, we’ve jumped into the red Alfa, traversed the steep hill and hairpin bends down to Pearl Beach, just so we could check out Jill’s Library. This is Pearl Beach’s incredible incantation of the humble street library or book exchange. Without a shadow of a doubt, this brightly painted library full of pre-loved books, is just waiting for desperadoes like myself to pop along.

More than functional, Jill’s Library is also a work of art featuring some of the area’s local characters…a kookaburra, magpies and rainbow lorrikeets and sprays of wattle. I don’t know much about how it came about. Simply that it was painted by Pim and named after Jill. That’s all.

I know I’m supposed to be writing about doors here. However, you barely notice the door on this picturesque box. Rather, it’s little more than a framed piece of glass, designed to keep the books clean and dry. However, for ardent bibliophiles like myself who are peering through the door in search of treasure, the door is a window of possibility. What’s beyond the glass?

Temptation…That’s what it is. Although our place is bursting at the seams with books with buttons flying and fabric tearing under their monumental force, I still want more. Indeed, like Monty Python’s Mr Creosote who couldn’t stop stuffing his face, I can’t stop bringing more and more books home. I can’t say no.

Indeed, this was no exception. I shamelessly raided the library, taking home Kristina Olsson’s spell-binding Australian novel, Shell. However, in my defense, I’ve almost finished it. I couldn’t put it down.  Shell tells the gripping story of shell-9781925685329_lgPearl Keogh, a journalist who is protesting against Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war. Then there’s Axel Lindquist, a glass artist from Sweden, who is working on the site of the emerging Sydney Opera House creating a glass sculpture inspired by Utzon’s design. Of course, there’s romance. However, that’s almost secondary to this world of living, breathing history. Olsson’s prose is incredibly poetic and philosophical, which I absolutely love. Indeed, it feels like Shell was written just for me. Indeed, it’s opened a door into another world just as surely as that very famous wardrobe door, which took Lucy into Narnia.

It usually takes me a few weeks to get through a book. So, the fact I’ve almost finished Shell in a couple of days speaks volumes.  Indeed, I’ve have been enjoying snuggling up in bed with my book and my electric blanket on. While the Winter sun filters through the curtains behind me, I could almost feel like I’m sunbaking down at the beach, except a cold snap surrounds me. Most homes around here don’t have central heating. We brave the Winter months and invest in air-con for the Summer.

Anyway, getting back to the Street Library…Despite its apparent simplicity, Jill’s Library captures the essence of Pearl Beach, a relaxed creative and cultural community of locals and weekenders who live alongside the lorrikeets, magpies and colourful Rainbow Lorrikeets.  It’s the sort of place people go to exit stress and embrace sun, sand, surf and a good read. Indeed, a good book is even better shared and discussed over coffee and cake.

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DSC_5271

 

 

 

Thought I’d better share a photo of the real deal also taken at Pearl Beach the other day. While that kookaburra is looking pretty innocent and minding his own business, I’ve had a local kookaburra snatch a hot sanger (sausage) off the BBQ here. So, they’re actually pretty audacious.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed that broader story of Jill’s Library, Pearl Beach.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0 Please pop over and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Stage Entry – Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors.

Sorry I’ve been rather intermittent lately. Life has been uber hectic what with school holidays and performances and I’m longing to put my feet up and relax.

Rowena & Amelia Coastquest

In so many ways, this week’s door is very ordinary. However, for the performers at Coast Quest, our regional dance eisteddfod, it was the point of no return where they embarked on the exhilarating thrill, or abject terror, of being on stage. For many of the dancers, it was probably a mixture of both.

DSC_5055

Of course, this eisteddfod could have been anywhere. Held in any school or local hall where the stage has that worn out look of a bygone era and there’s no signs of the bells and whistles which come with performing at the likes of the Sydney Opera House.

Yet, these local competitions and performances have their place bringing the best local talent together and extending the dancers’ experience beyond the four walls of their studios. While they might not be the big time, they celebrate a moment in time or might even be a stepping stone. Moreover, for the doting audience, it means the world to see our dancers up there on stage. Indeed, we had a good group of supporters from the studio in the audience and there were cheers and applause as our dancers took to the stage. It was fantastic!

Of course, whenever my daughter competes, I naturally believe she’s the best. I’m absolutely dazzled by her performances. During her new lyrical solo, I even had goosebumps. That’s what it is to be Mum and it’s not my place to be critic. I’m simply her adoring fan. She did very well and naturally we’re very proud. However, quite aside from the results, it was the experience which mattered and it was also very helpful to receive the judges feedback. No doubt, this matches what her teachers have been saying. However, having those thoughts written down in a report by a judge also adds weight.

Tomorrow night, we’ll be off to see our son perform in the Scout & Guides Central Coast Gang Show. So, I’ll be returning with a different stage door next week.

Thursday Doors is hosted by Norm 2.0

What, if any, experiences do you have of stage door? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Watching Crowded House.

Last Saturday night, Crowded House performed live on the steps of the Sydney Opera House.

Unfortunately, we missed it, but the concert was televised ABC TV on Sunday night and we were all parked in front of the TV reminiscing with Neil Finn and the band. Indeed, they were playing in our very own lounge room. Weren’t we lucky!!

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Neil Finn

In case you haven’t heard of Crowded House, it’s an Australian rock band. It was formed in 1985 by  New Zealander Neil Finn and Australians Paul Hester and Nick Seymour. They were later joined by Neil’s older brother, Tim Finn. Both Neil and Tim Finn hailed from Split Enz.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not a band person and there have never been any bands I’ve hero worshipped, longing for their next album. However, there were favourite songs, which I’ll never forget, but you probably need to be 40 something or over to know any of these.That said, I can mention Electric Blue by Icehouse without embarrassing myself.

Anyway, getting back to Crowded House…

I got quite a rush hearing many of the old Crowded House songs again. Not that I could’ve picked them as Crowded House. Yet, the songs were very familiar like running into an old friend. Crowded House was always there.

Actually, I’m quite grateful that I’ve had this opportunity to reconnect with Crowded House now and intend to buy their CD. Well, at least a CD. No doubt, they’ve put out more than one. It will be joining me in the car. I do a lot of driving!

So, having confessed that I’m anything but a Crowded House expert, I’m obviously breaking the most fundamental rule of writing… writing about something I know very little about. While I understand that this could be my undoing given there are  obsessive fans who know each and every hair on their heads.

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Tim & Neil Finn

However, there can also be a different kind of story. More of a getting to know you, dipping my little toe into the waters and sharing the journey kind of story. Moreover, while many people would be interested in pulling their music apart , I found myself watching and absorbing the band as people.There was something intangible about each of them which really touched me.  They all came across as really interesting, warm and genuine people with a very strong sense of something like a cross between empathy and compassion. I’d really like to sit on a beach watching the moon rise listening to these guys talk. Not about the band, being in a band or being a star but to hear their philosophical observations of life. I could sense wisdom, which isn’t a trait I usually attribute to band members but it was there. I know it was there.

So I wasn’t really surprised when I came across these quotes from Neil Finn:

“I try to put myself into unusual and difficult situations as often as I can in order to capture the element of struggle in the music.”

-Neil Finn

“So I think rather than being attracted so much now to working with my heroes, I’m sort of more attracted to working with completely unlikely strangers because it’s more exciting really.”

-Neil Finn

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Tim Finn…you could really tell he was having a blast!

There were also some poignant quotes from his older brother, Tim Finn:

“True contentment comes with empathy.”

Tim Finn

“Weave me a rope that will pull me through these impossible times.”

Tim Finn

“I’m a live performer and I love playing live.”

Tim Finn

Anyway, on that note I’ll leave you with a few songs:

 

Enjoy!

Crowded House: Don’t Dream It’s Over.

Do you have a favourite Crowded House song? What is it?
I find it hard to pick out of these three.
xx Rowena
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The End.

Sydney Harbour Ferry…Not A Cloud in the Sky.

Yesterday, we went on an epic adventure to Sydney’s Mosman Bay…a journey taking 2.5 hours, two trains and a ferry across Sydney Harbour.

Of course, I wanted to share our ferry trip with you…especially as many of you have not been Down Under and experienced the magic first hand and like me, make the most of “vicarious experience”.

I love catching the ferry around Sydney Harbour and was also looking forward to catching up with my extended family.

Meanwhile, I should also point out that Geoff was working which left me playing Sargeant-Major getting the troops to the station, changing trains and onto the ferry on time. Move over Gomer Pyle, it was time for me to become Sargent Carter of “Move it! Move it! Move it!” and “You knucklehead” fame.

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Live “Statue” at Circular Quay. How does he do it???

However, when it comes to losing this plot, the kids weren’t the only antagonists in the cast. I also had to factor in the biggest question mark of the lot…the Rowie Factor.

When it comes to the Rowie Factor, there is no explanation. No rhyme or reason. The Rowie factor is like that spooky relative you keep locked up in the closet well away from the public gaze, but always seems to find their way out. Right at the very worst possible moment, they appear giving a huge, enthusiastic wave. OMG!!!! Your spirit sinks like a stone.

WHY????? WHAT THE?????

However, yesterday the Rowie Factor was in a benevolent mood and actually did good…Alleluia!

The Rowie Factor is pretty good at that too. There’s no middle ground. Only extremely good or crushingly bad.

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Sydney Ferry Supply

So, there we are finally onboard our ferry…Supply.  Acquired in 1984, Supply is one of 9 single-ended First Fleet Class catamarans, which mainly operate in the inner harbour.

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After moving out of Circular Quay, our ferry heads due East past Sydney Opera House, leaving the Sydney Harbour Bridge behind. Being the weekend with good winds and a cloudless sunny sky, we spot quite a few good sized yachts and a flotilla of smaller craft as we pass other ferries. The kids lean right up against the bow with their hair blowing in the wind and I thank God this isn’t The Titanic and they can recreate that famous scene without the ferry hitting a very, very lost iceberg and sinking to the very depths of Sydney Harbour.

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A Yacht on Sydney Harbour.

The ferry pulls into Cremorne Point and I must admit I’m feeling a little anxious because I’ve only been on this ferry route once before and my doubts start to inflate, getting larger and larger as I second guess everything turning the details into question marks and I am in full reassurance mode. Besides, if I do get lost in typical Rowie fashion, I have my phone and can ring for assistance. After all, it’s not like we’re the first Europeans visiting this place and there’s no one to call. Mind you, I question whether you can really get lost if you haven’t found where you’re going yet…

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Anyway, as we pull into Cremorne Point I hear someone calling my name and waving out to me. It’s my cousin from interstate. At first, I thought she must’ve been coming to lunch but it was all pure coincidence. She was returning to her old stomping ground and also happened to have the afternoon free so came and joined us for lunch. Call it serendipity, meant to be, whatever. This had to be more than coincidence and I think you’d need a supercomputer to calculate the odds of us meeting up.

Meeting my cousin was such an unexpected surprise. I was stoked! (That said, I had to marvel at how the unexpected synchronised so well when the planned can go so horribly wrong!!)

Anyway, we had a fabulous afternoon meeting up with family and Geoff met us there after work and later drove us home.

These are a few night shots of Mosman Bay, which Geoff took just before leaving.

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Mosman Bay by Night. Photo Geoff Newton. Note Sydney Tower on the left.

Have you ever been to Sydney? Do you have any special memories and I’d love you to add links to your posts.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share 27th August, 2016.

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share, brought to you this week from the Sydney Opera House, where our daughter played her violin this week. 10 year old Miss, performed at the  Festival of Instrumental Music with her school. This is such a great opportunity opening up this world-class architectural and performance icon to kids..a experience they’ll never forget.

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Sydney Opera House

Take it from me, it’s a lot harder to perform there as an adult. No one’s been banging on my door, offering performance opportunities. Of course, I have to be an absolute maestro to perform at the Opera House. That said, I did consider trying to sneak in with my daughter. The only trouble is that I’m so tall, I’d immediately be evicted and sent to violinists’ prison.

What goes without saying with all these performances and kids’ activities in general is that Mum or Dad are automatic taxi drivers. As much as we might rate a “thanks very much to Mum’s and Dad’s at the end, the kids themselves usually don’t seem to appreciate our “supreme sacrifice”. You can read here  about how we got to the Sydney Opera House.

However, I was very touched by an interview with one of the performers at the concert.  When a pint-sized student from Currabubula Public School near Tamworth, was asked how he got to the Opera House, he simply replied: “by my Mum.” While the interviewer was angling to find out more about his mode of transport and create a bit of a story of the country kid travelling to the big smoke, for this young man there was only one way to get to Sydney…his Mum and the car was incidental. His Mum drove him five hours, so he could play his recorder at the Sydney Opera House. No doubt, they talked and chatted along the way and there could well have been “electronic relief”. Yet, they made that journey to the Sydney Opera House together…a trip they’d never forget.

I could’ve hugged this young man. While he wasn’t acknowledging me personally, I felt he acknowledged every parent in the room.

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By the way, I should also mention that I had a novel experience getting to the Opera House myself. I usually request an accessible seat, especially in a large overwhelming venue and the Sydney Opera House is as famous for its stairs as the white sails. So, when the only accessible seat was a wheelchair seat and the Opera House could lend me a chair, I gave it a go. It was the first time that I’ve gone out to a public venue in a chair. It totally exceeded my expectations and the staff were incredibly courteous and helpful. I received five star VIP treatment and you can read about it here.

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Geoff and Miss at Starbucks, Circular Quay, near Sydney Opera House.

What with all the excitement of the performance, I almost forgot to share that I went to Starbucks for the first time. Our daughter adores Starbucks, which totally baffles me because I much prefer local cafes and there were some truly amazing dessert sensations at cafes all around Circular Quay and the standard is incredibly high. To me, the cakes at Starbucks were more like milk bar fare and our carrot cake was stale. We sent it back and changed it for a caramel swirl cheesecake which was marginally better than average and we stopped off at the Guylian Chocolate cafe and bought something special to take home. I’ve warned my daughter we will NOT be returning to Starbucks!

By the way, Starbucks hasn’t done well in Australia. You might like to read this article written in 2008 about it’s demise.

After the excitement of the Sydney Opera House, I spent much of the week resting and reading. I’ve started reading Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This is the first book in her autobiographical series and it’s a real eye-opener for me as a white Australian. Of course, I know racism exists but it’s quite another thing to read about how it acts out in such personal details and what the KKK lynchings meant to these families. Of course, I knew these things happened from a historical perspective but it’s quite another thing to be drawn into that world and know what it meant. That these were husbands, fathers, sons and like the road toll which loses much of it’s true impact, each person who’s life was stolen away was a travesty. I am grateful that Maya Angelou has taken me into this world and expanded my understanding without being bitter or turning to inverse racism. She is not well known in Australia and we’ve really been missing out.

Ballet Get-Your-Leg-Extension-Intro

Thursday night, I had my adult ballet class. This was week 3 and just like a Lego bricks, the steps are building up. Not quite as up in the air as in the picture, but give it time. I still haven’t pulled off a pirouette but I’m getting closer. A swag of new French terms is also slowly infiltrating my consciousness. Even though I studied French at school, many of these terms fly over my head like birds and disappear out the window. Thanks to Google, I’ve been trawling through a ballet dictionary to help them sink in and have also been interrogating my daughter, who holds our family pirouette record of 4 pirouettes in stockings on a vinyl floor.

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Main Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House.

Before I head off for another week, I want to congratulate our son for enjoying his sister’s violin concert at the Sydney Opera House. He often ends up being audience at her various performances and attends without complaint, falling asleep and I feel it’s important to acknowledge the importance of audience, without which we wouldn’t be needing performers. He’s also been home sick a few days this week but seems to be on the mend.

How has your week been? I hope it’s been a good one.

Sorry, I almost forgot to let you know about Poets for Peace which is calling for contributions. Deadline is August 31st, 2016 and I encourage you to take part. Here’s a brief blurb:

“In response to the recent unceasing, and, in fact escalating global violence, we have seen and felt a corresponding surge in poetry about it.

We would like to take this opportunity to invite you to share your thoughts and feelings, a piece of yourself, to add to other Poets from around the world. We are hopeful that the combined weight of our collective spirit and wisdom will be felt worldwide as well.

The only restriction is that absolutely no hate is expressed other than the hate of violence. Any and all words will be appended to the running poem. This is not about ego, so you retain the rights to your creation, we are only interested in doing what we can to stop the violence.

Please share your poetry and your platform to spread the word for Poets everywhere to unite in this effort we are calling, “Poets for Peace.”Hashtag #PoetsForPeace

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster. You can click the Linky   to read the other posts.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Wheely Good Night at the Sydney Opera House.

On Monday night, I not only watched our daughter perform at the Sydney Opera House, it was the first time I’ve gone out as a disabled person in a wheelchair and I can’t tell you how encouraged I feel by the experience. It truly opened doors for me, making it so much easier to relax, have a great night out and do what I was there for. That is, to hear my daughter play her violin without any unexpected medical nightmares… even if I couldn’t see her!

As a person with limited mobility, if all goes well, I can get around okay and usually use a walking stick in unfamiliar and crowded environments. I have what’s known as “an invisibility”, meaning that most of the time, you can’t see anything’s going on. However, these symptoms fluctuate dramatically so it can be hard to predict how I’ll be at a given point in time. Indeed, I was simply walking on grass when I broke my foot. Knowing that “being the hero” can have serious consequences, I’m understandably cautious about participating in seemingly everyday activities…such as getting to the Sydney Opera House. As such, I often end up staying home.

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However, there was no way I was going to miss our daughter playing her violin at the Sydney Opera House. No way on this earth!

However, if you have ever marvelled at the Sydney Opera House, you’ll note those stunning white sails are perched on top of a huge mountain of stairs. Of course, architecturally speaking, the effect is very dramatic.They’re also a photographer’s dream. I’ve seen intense portraits of lone performers sitting on those stairs with that same sense of abandonment you’d recall from Princess Diana’s portrait taken at the Taj Mahal.

As striking as these stairs might be, for anyone with mobility, health issues, or even a lack of fitness, those stairs are insurmountable. Although I can walk, I’d need an oxygen tank, not to mention a Sherpa, to help me get to the top. Even if I did miraculously make it to the summit, I’d be off in an ambulance and straight to the ER.

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The Stairs…the dark side of getting to the Sydney opera House. A selfie on a good day.

Yet, while I’m prone to catastrophising, I knew I didn’t have to get up those stairs. That’s because public venues must have disabled access…even if it can be difficult to locate. When I attended School Spectacular at the Sydney Entertainment Centre last year, I was told to take the stairs, even though I was standing there with my walking stick. This particular person seemingly thought I could sprout a pair of wings and magically fly to my seat. Naturally, this meant that instead of having a good experience, I found myself defending accessibility rights when I wasn’t there as an activist. I was there to watch my daughter perform. Thankfully, someone else was more helpful.

After that, it’s hardly surprising that I want to sing my praises of Sydney Opera House staff right across the rooftops when everything went so well. We had VIP treatment all the way, and even the road lit up to greet us. What more could I ask?

I didn’t think about all of this when I booked myself in for a wheelchair seat. I always need an aisle seat and easy access in and out but get by with my walking stick and an accessible seat. However, these had sold out. The box office suggested this wheelchair spot, saying the Opera House could provide a wheelchair. I wasn’t entirely comfortable that I warranted a wheelchair. While I know people who use wheelchairs and can walk and how it enables them to do more, I’d never tried it out before. If I wasn’t doing well, I stayed home.

So, our trip to the Opera House, would also give us the opportunity to test out how a wheelchair went in public situations without having to BYO.

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Driving in to park at the Sydney Opera House

Our experience began with booking an accessible parking spot at the Opera House. It wasn’t free but it meant we could park right out the front with very little walking required. What it also meant was that we received the VIP treatment. We drove along Macquarie Street to the security gate, where the road was blocked off by a row of very sturdy metal bollards. As you could imagine, security is very tight. No more of this “G’day mate, it’s Fred” business. We had to show my disabled parking permit and my receipt to get through the gate. Then, like magic, the bollards electronically sunk into the ground and a row of recessed lights turned on. This was our road to the Opera House. By now, I was in my virtual limo pulling out the royal wave. It’s about time somebody treated mobility challenged people as VIPs, instead of outcasts!

After detouring for dinner, we returned to pick up the wheelchair and begin the journey to find our seats. The performance was in the Main Concert Hall and side-wheeling a gazillion stairs, we were personally escorted by staff along corridors, though multiple lifts via the bathroom. Once we’d finally reached our seats, we were greeted by a staff member asking: “You’re Rowena?”

Every single member of staff was courteous, friendly and respectful. I can’t tell you how that made me feel. It’s warmed my heart right to the core…a night we will never forget. Not just because our daughter was playing her violin at the Sydney Opera House, but because we were given the touch of human kindness, acceptance and understanding without it being a chore, something noble or even being “special”.

It just was.

Just like it ought to be!

What more could I ask for?!!

Concert Hall

Well, there was the small matter of needing someone to push my wheelchair. I don’t have the muscle strength to push my own chair. Not unsurprisingly, my husband was the wind beneath my wheels. Geoff’s Mum was in a wheelchair, so he has had experience. This is a good thing because wheelchairs can be notoriously difficult to operate, not unlike recalcitrant shopping trolleys with minds and travel destinations all of their own. Indeed, turning back the clock, Geoff’s mother fell out of the wheelchair when they went round a corner at Brisbane’s Expo88. I think he lost his licence after that and was put on a good behaviour bond!

Anyway, he got his licence back again last night…especially working with a difficult passenger who kept putting her foot on the wheels…not to mention bathroom stops up and down the lifts.

There was just one bit of explaining. We’d met a few other performing families during the day when I was walking round seemingly okay with the stick. Now, I was suddenly in a wheelchair. One lot had only seen us 5 minutes beforehand and thought I’d had an accident. They were all very understanding and had no dramas that I could walk and use a wheelchair all in one day.

Wouldn’t it be great if the rest of the world could be so understanding? Yet, you could say it was a Eureka Moment finally reaching that understanding myself after living with dermatomyositis for the last 10 years and struggling with the whole concept of using equipment!

I don’t know if there’s some quote about it being easy to change the whole world but more difficult to change yourself. If there isn’t, there should be and that’s where real change begins!

So perhaps you’ll be seeing more of me in wheels. Not because I’m getting worse but because I’m getting better.

Have you ever ventured out in a wheelchair or similar and how did it go? What sort of accessibility problems have you had or moments like mine where it all went well? Please share.

xx Rowena

 

Festival of Instrumental Music, Sydney Opera House.

On Monday night, our daughter performed in the Combined String Ensemble at the Festival of Instrumental Music 2016 at Sydney Opera House.While a professional music critic might discuss the repertoire or wax lyrically about the wonders of Public Education, this is a parent’s perspective…the views of Mum-on-seat.

As soon as every parent entered the Main Concert Hall at the Sydney Opera House, they had one thought on their minds…spotting their little darling. This was no easy task either given the sea of recorder players. I don’t know how many recorder players there were but it might have been a thousand. Maybe even two. To make matters worse for parents unable to find their own, there were enthusiastic waves and smiles from kids who’d spotted their loved ones…just to make you feel even worse….a sense of desperate loss…where are they?

In desperate scenes reminiscent of losing your child at the Sydney Easter Show in the huge, amorphous throng, the poor usher was being inundated by anxious parents: “I can’t find my child.” I was surprised the stage wasn’t swarming with cops, detectives and sniffer dogs hunting these kids down, so these kids would finally give their xparents a wave and put them out of their misery.

Well, when it came to finding our daughter, we couldn’t even find her instrument. We were surrounded by recorder players on all fronts, but could only spot much older students with strings and they weren’t wearing the T-shirt. Miss had really outsmarted me and the camera this time and taken 250 string players with her. Now, this really was looking like a case for the Police.

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The Combined String Ensemble.

Well, it turned out that the Combined String Ensemble was a featured performance and they’d come out onto the stage during the second half. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see our daughter at all but we at least saw some violins and had a close-up view of the cellos and double-bass. I wasn’t expecting to see her, but it would’ve been fabulous.

After all, we went through this last year when she performed at School Spectacular. She was but a speck in the huge multi-school choir and we had to watch the TV coverage on slow-mo to even catch a glimpse.

By the way, if you’re a parent, grandparent or some other form of child taxi driver, have you ever stopped to consider what you’ve learned along the way and how through being this supposedly passive background person, you’ve also been  inevitably extended in some way?

Five years ago, I took up the violin to help our daughter get started. She stopped but I kept going and she only came back to it at the start of this year and has worked pretty hard to get herself Opera House ready.

However, that wasn’t all. As I’ve sat in the audience watching her and other students perform at the Sydney Town Hall, School Spectacular at the Sydney Entertainment Centre,  now the Sydney Opera House and even at the local school, I am being embraced by all that music. I am hearing instruments I’d never think of going to see and my awareness, understanding and love of music has grown exponentially. I have started going to more concerts and have been taking my kids, sowing all kinds of seeds. Seeds, which may not germinate or bear fruit today or tomorrow, but one day, note will follow note…either as a player or equally important, as audience.

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Moreover, music touches our souls in ways so far beyond words and expression. We can leap for joy or perhaps find solace in a more sensitive, reflective piece. It can also unlock and release our inner junk and garbage, like releasing the minotaur out of the labyrinth

After all, music was never meant to be a chore…even if we do need to practice, practice, practice to find our way to the Opera House.

It is meant to set us free.

And to think this journey all started out, simply by driving Mum’s taxi.

xx Rowena