Tag Archives: UK

Harry & Meghan – A View from Down Under.

Last night, I watched Oprah’s infamous interview with Harry and Meghan. Harry and Meghan who? Of course, I don’t need to spell that out, do I?!! We all know exactly who I’m talking about.

Before you even ask where I sit on the matter, in typical Australian style, I’m going to state it straight up front. I support Harry & Meghan, and I also like the Queen.

I also want to say that back in 1981 when Prince Charles became engaged to this shy kindergarten teacher, Lady Diana Spencer, who was literally hunted by the press like the last deer on Earth, I was an impressionable 11 year old. The wedding took place the day before my 12th birthday, and I asked my mum and dad for the commemorative stamps. Meanwhile, I was frantically cutting up any magazine or newspaper clippings I could get my hands on, and was cutting and pasting them in a dedicted exercise book. While this may seem crazed and obsessed to the younger generation who didn’t live through the Diana era, it was all rather normal at the time. It’s what we did, along with wearing Lady Di blouses with the bow around the neck. I even remember that Gran had carted one of my poor friends off to the hairdresser to get a “Lady Di haircut”. My friend wasn’t really the Lady Di Haircut type, and has devoted much of her life to down to earth community service through Scouts. So, that gives some idea about just how crazed and obsessed we were about Diana. Certainly not everybody, but it was a phenomenon.

However, our generation didn’t just live through the royal wedding. We were also there when adorable Prince William was born, and particularly tuned in when Charles and Di brought him out to Australia in 1983 when he was just 9 months old. Back then, they were the ultimate “happy family”, weren’t they?!! Then, of course, Harry arrived. However, slowly but surely we were finding out that someone else had never left. Someone we didn’t even know. Shocking stuff. We see Diana in tears, or sitting alone outside the Taj Mahal. We see Diana and Dodi al Fayed on a luxury yacht. Or, maybe I wasn’t really paying all of that so much attention by then. That was 1997, and I was ten years out of school and had problems of my own. I had been living in Western Australia when I’d found out that I had hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) which had somehow been there since my traumatic birth like a secret inner labyrinth. In July, I had surgery and flew back to my parents’ place in Sydney to recuperate. On 31st August, 1997, Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed died in a horrific car crash in Paris while being pursued by the paparazzi. I remember the precise moment I heard the news. I was standing in one of my favourite ever book shops, Gleebooks (in Sydney’s Glebe) with a friend and he turned to me and said “Diana’s dead”. There was this moment. An understanding that the world had stopped, albeit only briefly, because in so many, many ways, Diana Princess of Wales somehow made the world go round.

I have tried to explain this Diana fever to my kids a couple of times. Of course, they couldn’t understand. I’m not even sure if I understand how one woman could have had such incredible appeal. We didn’t know her, but we loved her. Would we have laid down our lives for her? Probably not. However, would we buy a magazine with her photo on the cover? Most definitely, and I, too, am guilty as charged.

Of course, the greatest tragedy of Diana’s death was that her young boys lost their mum. That somewhere amidst this whirlwind of fashion, glamour, he said-she said, her ground-breaking acceptance of people living with HIV and how she put her own life at risk to prevent the use of landmines, we lost sight of the fact she was made of flesh and blood, and she was Mummy to these two young boys. Indeed, she was the only mum they had. We might have walked with them in our hearts as we watched those two young boys walk bravely behind their mother’s coffin with their father and uncle, but we didn’t know them at all. We weren’t there to pick up the pieces and help them get through it.

However, maybe each of us can do something to help Harry now. Help Harry who is now a grown up and has found his true love and soul mate in Meghan Markle, along with Archie and their baby girl whose on the way. The collective, or indeed the “unroyal we” over in the UK have a debt to that man. It was all very well for Charles and Diana to have had the mandatory two sons – the “heir and the spare”. However, they, we, whoever, can’t just throw him away now that William and Kate’s kids have knocked him off his perch. I’m not fully privy to the full scope of his charity work. However, Harry had clearly carved out a niche for himself with war veterans and the Invictus Games. He is really down to earth and lovely. So approachable. I’ll pinch one of Slim Dusty’s songs at this point: “I’d love to have a beer with Harry, cos Harry’s my mate.”

So, this means I’m pretty unimpressed (understatement) that they’ve cut off Harry’s personal security. Given the position he was born into as the son of the future king, compounded with all the hype surrounding Diana and all he went through surrounding her untimely dead, and how the tabloids are still hunting him and Meaghan like sport, this is something the UK needs to take care of. You can’t love him as a cute little boy and feel overwhelmed with grief when he lost his mother, and then throw him to the wolves. That’s what happened to Diana. After her divorce, her security was withdrawn and we already know what happened there.

It’s easy to sit here in my armchair all the way over here in Australia and have all the answers to their problems, and I’ll acknowledge that even writing this is distracting me from getting my own stuff sorted out. However, I felt I had to stand up and be counted.

Meanwhile, I haven’t commented on the race issue. Discrimination is a horrible and often insidious thing, and as a person living with a disability, I experience that myself. Half the time people don’t even know they’re doing it, and there’s no point turning a relaxing, friendly situation into a confrontation. However, I am also realizing racism is one of those things it’s very hard for me to get as a white woman. I can try to imagine what it would be like to be a “woman of colour”, but I don’t know. Yet, I can listen. I can think about the words I hear, and look around the world I live in and decide whether they ring true. I can also try to find bridges across these seeming divides, and find a humanity with more in common than all that tears us apart.

I also know how hard it is to reach out for help. What it’s like not to be heard, and go back deep inside our bunker to try to regroup. Work out your next move. However, I’ve never had to do that under the glaring, incredibly critical judgement of the media spotlight, and I’ve never been vilified like Meghan Markle simply for being there. Or, as she put it, just “breathing”.

As an Australian, I am part of the Commonwealth (despite being a Republican). I decided to write this post as a one woman protest. It’s time to treat these two precious, lovely people as human beings. That the press has no right to push anyone over the brink and to crucify people just because they’re royalty. Moreover, they equally have no right to vilify anyone, overtly or more subtly, due to their nationality, race or tone of their skin. Just leave them alone.

In all of this I am reminded of one of my all time favourite quotes:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke

I understand this is a controversial subject, but I’d appreciate your comments. You are more than welcome to disagree, but please keep your comments kind.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Parking Lot Near Bologna, 1992…Flash Fiction.

As part of an inter-agency operation, the Guardia di Finanza was staking out the notorious Bologna car park. It was said to be the change over point, for trucks trafficking young women from Croatia to the UK.

“Ze cargo good. Very good,” said the guy in the green pants, reportedly  Sergei Demodenko. The other man, known as the Kissing Assassin, was Luigi Pepperoni.

“Disgusting!” a female officer spat. “They can roast in hell.”

“But they are just the little fish. Talk is, this goes high up.”

Suddenly, the men peered up, and sped from the scene. Evidently, a tip off.


This afternoon, I intrepidly advanced into my teenage son’s bedroom and took off with his school folder to dig out the art assignment he had due, and evaluate the carnage. As you could perhaps appreciate, I need to be in the right frame of mind to take on his messy folder, but desperation called.

His assignment was on Australian Artist, Jeffery Smart . I’d heard the name, but despite having somewhat studied Australian art in the context of social history at university, I couldn’t place him. So, before I even chased up the questions for the assignment, I did the usual Google search and caught up.

What followed was several hours working through the painting with our son and also for myself. I don’t know whether you’ve seen what homework’s like these days in the post-Google Internet era. However, our son does his homework online and submits it to his teacher via Google classroom. This is very much “Beam me up, Scotty” territory to me. He still has exercise books, yet his learning is so interactive, and light years ahead of what we were doing. I left school in 1987 and I remember studying art history from a black & white text book, which hardly did anything justice. I don’t remember studying Australian art at all and discovering the likes of Australian Women artists like Margaret Preston and Thea Proctor, had to wait until university.

Art appreciation, also meant a trip to the Art Gallery of NSW in the city, not a Google search from your lounge chair.

We really were deprived.

Anyway, as we went through the questions, I found out that he had to write a 100 story about the painting. I was initially a bit baffled about what he should write, but then it suddenly dawned on this bear of little brain, that they were just asking him to write what I write all the time…a 100 word piece of flash fiction.

He hasn’t done something like this before to my knowledge. So, I thought I’d write an example to show him to help him formulate his own ideas.

This was much harder than expected. While Jeffrey Smart is an Australian artist, he lived in Italy most of his life and the painting is set in a car park in Bologna. After spending so much time researching, staring at and pulling this painting apart, I decided there was something like a people smuggling ring involved and these men were dealing in human cargo. So, i found myself needing to pick up a few words of Italian, find out a bit about their Police force and think up some kind of interesting twist for the end.

I do this every week for Friday Fictioneers. However, it’s never easy and there’s a huge part of me, which almost capitulates every week, when seeing the photo prompt produces a nasty case of writer’s block. I really do freeze and the words stop dead in their tracks.

Anyway, there’s a bit of a back story to this. I hope you enjoyed it and might I also encourage you to write something about this intriguing painting prompt and put a link to your effort in the comments below. I’d love to read it.

xx Rowena

PS I just put 1 + 1 together and realized that 1992 was the year I was in Europe and that I actually went to Florence the year this was painted. That wasn’t long after The Wall had come down and Germany had been reunified. The Croatian War of Independence was fought from 1991 to 1995 between Croat forces loyal to the government of Croatia—which had declared independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I remember that you couldn’t send mail to Croatia at the time…just the tip of a dreadful iceberg.

Weekend Coffee Share 25th June, 2016.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

If you’re joining me for coffee today, you’d better forget having anything iced or frozen today and instead warm your frozen fingers around a coffee or join me in a mug of Hot Chocolate. I like my hot chocolate with whipped cream, a sprinkling of cocoa and marshmallows to dunk. Indulgent I know but I don’t have one very often so they’re quite a treat. I had my first one of these back in Koln or Cologne back in 1992. Another time…another place but still delicious!

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My daughter playing her violin.

By the way, I had the Hot Chocolate featured here on Tuesday My daughter was performing with the school choir and the string group at a lunchtime concert and as her school is a good 45 minutes drive from home, I just had to go out for lunch, a Hot chocolate and follow it up with tastings at the neihbouring cheese and chocolate factories. As much as Mum’s Taxi might cry “abuse” and “exploitation”, there are also benefits. By the way, after indulging on pork pie swimming in gravy with hot crunchy chips, my Hot Chocolate, cheeses and chocolate, I topped my splurge by visiting a huge charity shop “The Vinnies Warehouse” where I picked up a fabulous red Oroton handbag and knee-length black boots for a steal. The boots are a little tight but for $25.00, I’ll make them fit.

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Ever considered going swimming in gravy?

I needed a huge pick-me-up this week. Awful things have been happening to good people I know and then I can extend those sentiments out to Beautiful British MP Jo Cox who was brutally shot and stabbed in the UK. She was a wife, a mum of two, a daughter, a sister.

However, it was matters closer to home that really rattled me. A family friend’s daughter lost her husband suddenly fa heart attack. He was only 45 and they had a 12 year old son…the same age as ours. As much as we’ve lived with my volatile health for the last 10 years, I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose your husband and Dad suddenly like that.  Steve Gee was a much loved and respected Sports Journalist and my heartfelt sympathies go out to his family and friends. Speaking of which, I need to write a card and think of what to say, which I’m finding challenging. Perhaps, “thinking of you” is enough but when we’ve come so close to experiencing a similar loss, I expect more from myself. What have I picked up from along the road? Hence, I have written nothing…other thasn sharing his memory with you.

This week, also saw our local Paralympic Gold Medallist, Liesl Tesch attacked and robbed at gun point while training for the Paralympics in Rio. I’ve met Liesl a few times and I actually wore her gold medal down the main street of Gosford during the International Women’s Day March a few years ago, when she was our Keynote Speaker and I was on the Status of Women Committee. I also met Liesl again when she spoke to members of the kids scout troop. They’re Sea Scouts and Liesl and her husband contribute behind the scenes. What helped me at the time, was seeing how she juggled her mobility so she used a wheelchair to conserve energy but rode her bike to and from work. This made me realise that using equipment didn’t make me it’s slave and I could use it to extend myself, rather than narrowing my options. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that at the time and since then, my health has improved significantly and I’m getting around quite well almost all of the time.

So, to hear about what happened to Liesl and  a team official, really rattled me and I did manage to get a card off to her.

I understand that bad things happen to good people and that our lives need a balance of flavours like a good dish…a bit of saltiness, sweetness, acidity, creativity, following the recipe and not just having everything sweet and sugar-coated all the time. I understand that in many instances, adversity is good for us and makes us stronger, more resourceful, compassionate and loving but at the same time adversity breaks, leaves our heroes fighting debilitating PTSD and loving people somehow consumed with hate. It’s not a predictable equation where you can put adversity in and know the person’s going to emerge like a beautifully wrapped package with a bow on top when it reaches the end of the production line.

scales Good-vs-Evil-Scales

While I haven’t been so bold as to go up to God and ask him what on earth he’s doing, I have been wondering whether he might have pressed a few of the wrong buttons. We all know someone mean, nasty and despicable who lives a comfortable life well into old age and karma never catches up with them. Case in point being Jack the Ripper. I guess the argument goes that they’ll be judged by their maker but even so, am I the only one who wants to see justice on earth and not only for eternity? I don’t think so.

So, you can see I’m a bit fired up this week but it’s doing me good venting my thoughts here and I know many of you have experienced tragedy and heartbreak and know these feelings much better than I.

Speaking of stress, last night we heard that Britain is Brexiting the EU. I don’t know what all this means and I guess it remains to be seen. I’m Australian and going back, there was some tension about what Britain was doing joining the EU and what that meant for the Commonwealth. I guess those questions will resurface to some degree. Our current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is an outspoken Republican and we have a Federal election on July 2. There have to be some local ramifications and I don’t know what Brexit means for Australian exports to Europe. It seems the stock market isn’t happy at the moment but hopefully it will bounce back. That obviously has global ramifications.

Anyway, I wrote a post about Brexit last night: The Brexit: Britains Favourite Biscuit. It’s not intended to be a funny piece and falls more into the realms of satire.

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Roald Dahl at work in his Hut.

After dealing with the heaviness of the last week,I’ll move onto what I’ve been reading and ask if any of you are huge Roald Dahl fans? You might recall that for the A-Z Challenge I wrote a letter to Roald Dahl as part of my series of Letters to Dead Poets. This has triggered a Dahlfest in my own bookshelf and I’m currently making my way through his biography while reading through his children’s books. I have already read Matilda, James & The Giant Peach and this week I finished off Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and I’m now reading Charlie and The Great Glass Elevator. I’m pretty sure that I read both Charlie books as a child but my memories are very dim. I certainly loved the movie starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, although there are some obvious discrepancies with the book. Who hasn’t wanted to find their own golden ticket and tour Wonka’s factory and own it at the end?!!

So, travelling along a chocolate river in my dreams has paralleled those more intense questions this week and we’re having a quiet weekend with the kids off at Gang Show rehearsal for Scouts. Performance are only a few weeks away. This means that I’m still rugged up in my winter PJs and dressing gown and I have no intention of going anywhere today. At a chilling 12.9 °C, it’s almost too cold to breathe! (Okay! You can start playing your violins for me now!)

So, how has your week been? I hope it’s been good and look forward to catching up!

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

xx Rowena

The Brexit… Britain’s Latest Biscuit!

New from UK Biscuit manufacturer McDunk’s comes :”The Brexit”. The Brexit is a plain biscuit designed for biscuit lovers with a less sophisticated palate, who are sick of  Nice and having their biscuits sugar-coated.

Designed to be dunked in either tea or coffee, the Brexit can also be pulverized to make that most English of desserts, Apple Crumble and is versatile enough to use for crumbing meat and makes a flavoursome stuffing for roast chicken.

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The Brexit is perfect for dunking in tea.

Since leaving the EU, the British Government has banned all foreign biscuit imports and Britons have been asked to do their bit to salvage the national economy by buying Brexits. Indeed, they’ve been implored to eat Brexits for breakfast, lunch and dinner and the Prime Minister has engaged Master Chef Heston Blumenthal from the famed Fat Duck Restaurant to produce a cookbook to teach the British public creative ways of cooking with Brexits.

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So popular….the Brexit is gone in a flash!

In recent polls, the majority of Britons voted for the Brexit as Britain’s favourite biscuit, although the Scottish voted overwhelmingly against. They like their oats.

So Britain, enjoy your Brexit but be careful while your dunking it, to ensure that it doesn’t fall in! You wouldn’t want it to drown, would you?!!

Do you have any views on Britain’s exit from the EU? I haven’t been following the debate but I’m certainly interested in the aftermath and am looking to buy a few things from the UK while the exchange rate is good. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and get a bit of discussion going. 

xx Rowena

 

Winter Australia…Summer UK

While we Aussies are a tough breed, nobody’s invincible.

Now that Winter is setting in, it’s pretty clear that cold weather is our kryptonite. We must have some kind of inbuilt solar panel and need those vital sun’s rays to survive. Without them, we shrivel up and lose all power. Hibernate among the gum leaves alongside the koalas wishing we were small enough to crawl inside a soft, warm pouch.

The strange thing is that it’s not just the humans who are affected. I even saw my friend’s Scotch Collie down at the beach wearing a coat the other day. These dogs with their thick woolly coats survived a Scottish Winter once upon a time. However, the Australian version is just as allergic to the cold as it’s human counterparts.

Hence, when you hear an Australian cry “cold”, you’d better ask for clarification before you assume we’re talking about sub-zero temperatures.

Cold is all relative.

But before you write us off for being “soft”, just wait until the thermometer climbs to 30 degrees Celsius and you’re talking about being “hot”.

We might not be great with the cold but know how to handle our heat!

After all, some like it hot!

xx Rowena

Featured image from https://www.facebook.com/Anything-Straya-528717497224853/?fref=photo.