Tag Archives: work

Trials of The Good Samaritan…Friday Fictioneers.

“Trust it to rain on RUOK Day,” murmured Jane from accounts. “If we were meant to feel okay, it would be sunny.”

Ever the Good Samaritan, I invited her out for lunch. However, Sydney’s Martin Place was wet and dreary, only intensifying her despair and my frustration.

“Umbrellas and raincoats protect you from the rain, but nothing can save you from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. ”

It was hopeless. The power of positive thinking sank to the bottom of my chai latte and drowned. No point applying CPR. I gazed heavenward and admitted defeat.

“Lord, she’s all yours”.

……

100 words

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Na’ama Yehuda. Click here for other stories inspired by the prompt.

In Australia, we have a program geared towards improving mental health and preventing suicide called RUOK and every year we have RUOK Day,  which was held just a few weeks ago on the 12th September. However, naturally the idea is to use this question to start a conversation any day of the year.

I’ve been battling with this for awhile, because while it’s all well and good to ask if someone’s okay, you generally know they’re not which is why you’re asking the question. So, when they say no, or they deny what’s going on, what do you do then?

While they might even need professional help, it’s often difficult to get someone into treatment and we as family, friends, work colleagues and even strangers are called in to bridge the gap. It is fundamental to my personal ethics to stop and help someone who is suffering and not be that person who walks away, turns a bling eye. Yet, people who are doing it tough can be difficult to be around…depressing, angry, poor communicators, smelly. So these were some of the issues I wanted to raise through my well-intentioned Good Samaritan who finds it all a bit too hard in the end.

Although the situation doesn’t resolve well in my story, more than likely it takes a number of attempts to get through to someone who is doing it really tough. There’s an ad which encourages people not to give up trying to quit smoking because they’ve already failed before. They say that it takes a few attempts to quit. It’s probably the same with encouraging someone to open up. We need to keep the lines of communication open, have a few people to share the load and do not give up.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Night Musings With Grannie… Eunice Gardiner.

For all of us, there is this strange other world our parents, grandparents and even siblings inhabited before we came along. Yet, while we know world history was going on before we were born and stuck our proverbial tail in the donkey, it can be harder to grasp that the people closest to us had a life before we came along. Sometimes, the threads from these experiences are woven into wonderful stories told time and time again, which become part of our family fabric. On the other hand, these experiences can be thrown right to the very back of the cupboard and either not mentioned or strictly guarded and kept locked away behind closed doors.

Pix Eunice TV Screen Test

 

This all becomes rather more complicated when your relative had a public life. That you might’ve known them in private within that personal and family sense, but there was also this other public self. Perhaps, you stepped into this world now and then, or even belonged in it yourself. Or, perhaps it was a chapter which closed long before you came along and you don’t even know where to begin. Where is the magical red thread to guide you into that other world? The crumbs scattered along the footpath?

Pix Eunice playing piano at Academy

Eunice Age 22. 

My grandmother Eunice Gardiner was an International concert pianist, music critic and professor of the piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Yet, she also had seven children, twelve grandchildren and nine Great Grandchildren, including two of my own. This very same person who played the piano for the Queen and was dubbed “Melba of the Piano”, also knitted little jackets for each of her babies and at least sewed some of their clothes. She made the Sunday roast and was renowned for making custard. She was mother by day, concert pianist by night. She spent a year touring USA and Canada leaving her husband and three children at home. This is an intriguing web. A complex woman who was well before her time.

FT25 Ruby and Eunice

Mother and Daughter: Ruby & Eunice Gardiner (1940?)

There was also another parallel story…that of Eunice’s mother, my Great grandmother, Ruby Gardiner (McNamara). Ruby left her husband and adult son at home in Sydney to travel to London with Eunice so she could accept her scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Eunice was only 16 at the time and there was no question of her going alone. Her father, Reuben Gardiner Master Mariner with the Adelaide Steamship Company, said: “You might as well throw her to the sharks in Sydney Harbour.” Less than three months after leaving Sydney, Eunice’s father had a massive heart attack and died at sea near Adelaide. So, when Ruby left for London, she never to saw her husband again. In the one letter I have which he wrote to his beloved “Rube”, you could see they were close. They being apart was a necessary sacrifice, not a relief. Ruby was Eunice’s everything and accompanied her everywhere. They were seemingly inseparable. Ruby made pots of tea and helped entertain the press and, as I found out only last week, massaged Eunice’s hands to help keep them supple. It is then also no surprise, that many years later when her mother was in the hospice after a debilitating series of mini strokes, that Eunice would stop by after work at the Conservatorium and feed her mother dinner. Indeed, for many years Gran lived with Eunice and the family in Lindfield.

I’ve written about Eunice before and after years of research, I’m still finding more edge pieces and the picture in the middle is still patchy. Just when I think I’ve found all the missing pieces, something else shows up and the picture hazes over. Indeed, I have to wonder whether she doesn’t want to be found and that really wouldn’t surprise me. I know she’d be horrified to know that all those interviews she gave all those years ago, along with all the photographs and her writings as a music critic, are now available with the touch of a few buttons and a very long time travelling through Google. However, although that might tell me to leave her alone and let her rest in peace, she was and remains a public person. A woman who lived an extraordinary life, which shouldn’t just be pushed to the back of the closet and forgotten. Moreover, on a personal note, her DNA has been shared and passed on. There is also a wider family which also shares these same elements and ingredients. They might not be playing the piano but they’re dancing, writing, painting, drawing or obsessively focused on something. Moreover, Eunice had her musical “family” of brilliantly talented young musicians who speak a language the rest of us will never understand. They’re carrying her legacy forward and when you’re that unique needle in a haystack, I’d imagine it would be helpful to know you’re not alone. That someone else has trod that path and left some writings and recordings along  the road. So, in this weird macabre kind of way, my grandmother isn’t dead. She lives on.

Anyway, what precipitated my latest wanderings…

Pix 1940 May 11 pg 24.jpg

The other night while was actually researching one of my grandmother’s colleagues, cellist Osric Fyfe, I stumbled across a new resource…a magazine called Wireless Weekly. I thought I knew about all the major media articles about my grandmother and to be very honest, thought I hadn’t left a stone unturned. Then, last week, I discovered a two page media feature in the Wireless Weekly dated 11th May, 1940. This was about a month after she’d returned to Sydney after five years in London. She had returned from London a star and there were interviews about her appearances on BBCTV and a movie Black Eyes with Mary Maguire. She was a person of interest. A person of the moment.

Pix 1940 pg 2 full page

What particularly delighted me about the photos in this media spread was that the photographer almost saw her through my lens. Every photographer, amateur or professional, has a tendency towards a different perspective ranging from the big picture wide-angle to the zoomed in or even macro perspective. This feature really focused on her hands. Indeed, you could say that it was a study of Eunice’s hands.

Pix 1940 May 11 Ruby Massages Eunices Hands.jpg

Mother and daughter’s hands…Ruby Gardiner massaging Eunice’s fingers. 

My favourite photo zooms right in close, showing Ruby Gardiner massaging her daughter’s hands. I never knew she did this, and I was really touched at a deep personal level to tap into this level of intimacy between them. It was truly special and meant so much to me not just as their grand-daughter and Great Grand-daughter, but also as a mother now myself. It’s also got me thinking about my own daughter who is seriously interested in dancing and recently went into her first pair of pointe shoes. Her feet get very sore and perhaps it is now my turn to massage her feet. Be that silent force beneath her dreams.

Pix 1940 pg 25 piano close up

I also appreciated a close up picture of her hands at the piano. This is exactly the sort of photo I would take myself zoomed right in focusing on the fingers. Indeed, you can observe every little detail of her fingers and they’re almost perfectly preserved in time yet cold and untouchable at the same time. Even though these are the fingers of a famous and very accomplished pianist and her tools of trade, they’re not quite the same as the hands I knew. The very same hands which squeezed my newborn son’s feet, while she sang Twinkle Twinkle to him.

Jonathon Christmas 2004

Our son’s first Christmas with Great Grannie Eunice. 

 

How I wish I could’ve frozen time somewhere further along that path so that she was still here and more than just a photograph. Yes, I know. I’ve incredibly lucky to have all these newspaper resources about my grandmother’s life. Yet, at the same time, having all of that brings her back to life in ways I’d never dreamed and yet she’s still among the dead. She can not smile, laugh or make a cup of tea and when I read all of this, I simply want her back. Back for more than just a cup of tea, but to stay.

DSC_0075

My grandmother with my daughter. She was born on Eunice’s birthday 88 years later. I love my grandmother’s smile in this photo. She looks so happy!

I have spent so many, many nights with her on Google and even ten years after she passed, I can still hear her voices as clear as a bell and she always offers me a cup of tea. It could’ve been yesterday or even a few moments ago.

The heart knows no distance!

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS When you look at these photos of my grandmother with these young children, it seems like there was never any choice between career and family and somehow it all seamlessly came together. Photos and retrospectives tend to smooth out life’s rough edges and the bits which don’t quite fit into the narrative. There is no doubt in my mind that playing the piano was her first love and great, lifelong passion. Yet, then she met my grandfather. It was wartime and she found a second flame. Having a great talent and having had people sacrifice and invest in that talent, places an expectation. An expectation which led other female musicians of her day (including Australian Opera Singer Dame Joan Hammond) not to marry. Not to have a family. Eunice chose a different and more complex path, which was often fraught. There were times when these tensions boiled over. Eunice’s mother, Ruby, was a tower of strength, and there was also household help. So, Eunice wasn’t a modern female Atlas, carrying all of this on her shoulders alone. She was just like the rest of us. Only human.

 

Me – A New Book and A Work in Progress…

Last weekend, I mentioned that I was reading Raphaelle Giordano’s: Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One. I’d first spotted it at Gleebooks while on holidays at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains West of Sydney.  I don’t know why I bought this book. It was positioned in a huge stack right next to the register in prime real estate “look at me!!!” territory. It was also set in Paris. Then, the cover boasted that over 2 million French readers had loved it.Clearly, this book was going to be the next big thing, even if I hadn’t heard of it yet. For once, I was going to be ahead of the pack.

Book

However, being somewhat restrained, I waited til I arrived home and headed to our local bookshop, Book Bazaar. Of course, I couldn’t remember anything about it other than the colour…a delicious shade of musk pink. Well, at least that was the colour of the title. Oh yes…it was a French novel. Thank goodness Mandy is good at cryptic puzzles. Clutching my book in my fingertips, I was off on a virtual trip to Paris.

I don’t know whether you’ve ever considered this, but buying a book is always a bit of a mystery.  A leap of faith. A stab in the dark. Even when you’ve heard raving reviews and its been loved and adored by the masses and has even been elevated to the best seller lists, that’s still no guarantee it’s going to touch, inspire or even prod you.

So, I shouldn’t be surprised that with a title like: Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One, that I might be set for some kind of transformation. Moreover, now that Winter’s evolving into Spring, that I might even be set for a metamorphosis. Indeed, I’m no longer reading the book as a novel. Rather, it’s turned into a challenge. As the main character documents her visits to Claude a routinologist (whatever that is…), he provides her with a series of accumulating steps towards finding fulfillment. Described as a “third world problem”, her life is the epitomy of happiness and success on the outside, yet feels hollow and empty inside. She isn’t satisfied.

I didn’t buy this book because I’m not satisfied. Rather, I bought it because it was a French novel set in Paris. I spent six weeks in Paris in 1992 after finishing university and I like reflecting back on my time there, despite going through an existential crisis and the horrors of the “Paris dumper” (named after a Sydney band and I believe it was their lead singer who had a similar experience. As I’ve said before no one ever tells you that the city of love, is also the epicentre of heartbreak and despair. Indeed, in hindsight, I no longer wonder why there are so many bridges in Paris…

Anyway, I decided to follow the steps outlined in the book and see where they lead me. I had no great expectations. Indeed, I had none at all. After all, as I said, I wasn’t dissatisfied with my life. However, I had the feeling that I should be. That I should be bothered that I haven’t been in paid employment since I had chemo five years ago. That I should feel panic stricken that I haven’t edited my book “manuscripts” and got something out there. That pouring my heart and soul into so much research was an utter waste of time and a symptom of some kind of deep seated mental health issue which should be drawn out from the depths and slayed like the proverbial dragon. How could I be content when my life was up shit creek without a paddle, especially when I’ve always been a very driven person? Perhaps, that was just as worthy of exploration and change. Surely, I couldn’t possibly be happy when my life didn’t tick most of the boxes. Indeed, I’d ticked a few of those boxes you are supposed to avoid at all costs such as living with a severe life threatening illness. Actually, make that two.

Perhaps, I just didn’t realize I wasn’t happy with the status quo. That somehow I found enjoyment selling sausages at the scout fundraising BBQ at our local Bunnings hardware store. That I found pleasure in spotting a red rose just leaning into view through the window behind my desk. The window itself had an enormous cobweb so I wasn’t even looking at a perfect rose. It was rose through the cobwebs and in my deluded state, I found that even more alluring. I loved that juxtaposition of opposites…the comedy. I had made peace with my imperfect life and didn’t feel compelled to fetch the broom. Perhaps, I’d given up.

So, I stated writing the points out from the book on post it notes. Two post it notes:

You are responsible for your own happiness.

Throw out 10 useless objects.

If you looked around me, you’d say that I’d have no trouble throwing out 10 useless objects. Indeed, I could throw out, or re-home thousands of objects and never hit the sides. However, it’s not the last step that’s the most difficult. It’s the first. Of course, I could throw away 10 useless bobby pins which weren’t taking up any space whatsoever. However, wouldn’t that be cheating? Shouldn’t I be thinking about the spirit of the challenge and actually making a noticeable change to my external environment? Personally, I didn’t view this as over-thinking, but a case of being more conscious about my actions. I gather ten things into a crate and they hit the bin. I crossed the task off my list. And yet…

Somehow this desire for more space was addictive. I needed more real estate.

However, to create more space, you need to have somewhere to put things.

You also need to have discipline in addition to those create flights of fancy which have created the teetering stacks of books, paperwork and miscellaneous detritus which have fluttered onto my desk and built a nest.

Rowena Desk

It’s going to take a lot more than a line from a book to reform my desk but I am serious about it. Somehow I’m going to conquer.

xx Rowena

Books

PS When they said to throw ten things out, they didn’t mention anything about not bringing new stuff into the house. I don’t know how this happened, but we were driving back from the Scout camp yesterday and we spotted a sign outside a farm which said FREE. We had no idea what it was and thought it was most likely oranges or manure. However, there were bags and bags of books. We started going through them and it was a bonanza…an entire collection of Sci Fi, which my husband snapped up. Have no idea where all these books are going to live but they’ve certainly dumbfounded my quest for more space!

 

 

 

The Boss

The Boss was THE Boss. No one dared challenge company policy, which demanded staff only used triangular paperclips, not the usual ones with rounded ends. Despite our degrees, our role wasn’t to question why. Actually, we weren’t there to question anything.

That came much later, when I found a photo of him and his wife in the paper. She’d fled with the kids, charging him with domestic violence. His former secretary, I remembered how her office was chaos, and his was anal.

Sure, opposites attract. Yet, somehow I knew, that using the wrong type of paperclip, must’ve caused their demise.

……..

This has been another contribution to  Friday Fictioneers  hosted by Rochelle Wisoff Fields. Photo prompt Copyright Claire Sheldon.

I would love to hear your comments on the whole opposites attract thing too. Most people I know, marry their opposite and yet it is also fraught with tension. 

xx Rowena

So, You Used To Be A Dancer? Life Lessons From Dancing (Reprise)

You might be aware that I recently took up ballet again…albeit at an elementary level. I am absolutely loving it and thought you’d enjoy this encouragement to put on your dancing shoes! xx Rowena

Sirena Tales

NIK_5824Ask [yourself] what makes you come alive and go do it.  Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.”~~Howard Thurman

Folks keep coming across my path, voicing their passions along with their regret in not pursuing those passions.  So, I am running this post from the archives again, with some new photos. The original post, with many generous, thoughtful comments, is here . 

Sure, I’ve already reblogged it, but since the yearning for a more vitalized life continues to come up so relentlessly, I am repeating this reminder: DO WHAT MAKES YOU COME ALIVE.

Not solely for dancers at all, this is for anyone who seeks a spur to vitalize.  This piece does also go out to the medical technician the other day who danced for 10 years and sorely misses it and the dance studio owner who confided that ceasing to dance for herself…

View original post 585 more words

The Birth…Flash Fiction

Walking into the hospital with my suitcase packed, I had no idea this would be my greatest goodbye.

Rather, all I could think about was the birth and welcoming our tiny son into the world. After feeling him moving around like an exuberant butterfly, I’d finally see his face and hold him in my arms.

No longer a work in progress, he’d become real.

With such anticipation and a love I’d never known before, I didn’t notice the door slam shut behind me. That the woman who walked in, wasn’t the same woman walking out.

That Mummy was born.

13th September, 2016.

This has been a Flash Fiction Challenge from Charli over at  Carrot Ranch

August 31, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a goodbye. It can be the last polka until next time; a farewell without end; a quick see ya later. How does the goodbye  inform the story. What is the tone, the character’s mood, the twist? Go where the prompt leads.

121cut

On Father’s Day, my cousin gave birth to her first born, a son, in the same hospital where I gave birth to our son 12 years ago. I had no idea at the time how  becoming a parent would change our lives in so many ways and how it would extend me in ways I never thought possibly but also take me away  from people and activities that meant so much to me…a world I never thought I’d leave behind. After all that initial excitement where I couldn’t keep my eyes off him, parenthood was also a struggle.

3enewton-family3-months

This was taken at my grandfather’s 90th Birthday Party. My grandfather was a Reverend and wore his suit a lot. So, it seemed only fitting for Mister to come formal.

As with so many things in life, there is that fusion of joy and struggle, hellos and goodbyes…the yins and yangs. I personally  feel it’s important to acknowledge both sides of the coin and not to deny their existence or how these contradictory forces interplay with each other throughout life’s journey. This is particularly true of parenthood where the positives are emphasised in glamourised commercials while the struggles can be very private.

So, often when you hear a parent open up about these struggles, there’s someone else in exactly the same boat and that relief of no longer feeling alone.

xx Rowena

zorro8 months.jpg

For all my dog loving friends, here he is with our first Border Collie, Zorro.  He was a fantastic dog!

Wet Weekend Coffee Share 5th June, 2016

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share Australian Style. That means it’s Winter here and we’re thinking Hot Chocolate, although I’m currently drinking tea.

What are you sipping on? No doubt, many of you are trying to quench the Summer heat with a long, Iced Tea.

Autumn Leaf Palm Beach Sydney

Autumn Leaf, Pittwater, Palm Beach, Sydney

Personally, each season has its own character and beauty. Summers I love the long extended hours of sunlight and going to the beach at the end of the day. Autumn…I usually appreciate relief from the stinking hot Summer heat and the occasional flash of stunning Autumn colours. Winter is a time of hibernation, rest and restoring the soul before events take off again in Spring. Spring…it’s great to see the sun again and enjoy a bit of sun before it gets too hot. I enjoy other people’s gardens.

Spring and Autumn are my favourite seasons and Autumn edges out in front. I love those stunning Autumn leaves with their kaleidoscope of reds, oranges and yellows which glow like nature’s stained-glass windows backlit by the sun.

If you’re joining me this weekend, then you’ll need a good raincoat, gumboots, umbrella and a bit of pluck and courage to take on the heavy rain. That is, unless you’re a duck.

It seems like someone’s upended the heavens and that great swimming pool in the sky, is falling down. Still falling down. There have been dangerous, surf conditions, localised flooding and absolutely no incentive for heading out. For us, that’s been limited to driving the kids around. We’re no longer that interested in chasing the bright lights. Too much hard work…especially in the rain! The Georges River in Southern Sydney has burst its banks, along with the Wilson River in Lismore. As it’s flat around here, I’m sure there’s some localised flooding but we’re fine at home.

Last Thursday, I had my first job interview in around 4 years. It’s a one day a week job at my daughter’s school working in community liaison. I’ve done this type of work before but I haven’t seriously returned to paid work after having chemo two years ago. I had my last job for 5-6 years and so it’s been a long time since I’ve been through the interview process. Even if I don’t get the job, I am pleased with how it went and how I came across. These days, I’m more concerned about finding the right fit, than having to push the proverbial uphill to “make it work”.

I find out if I’ve got the job tomorrow, which may mean I’m pulling my old business-self back out of the closet during the next week. I am quite used to dramatic changes around here but as I was sorting out Summer and Winter clothes this afternoon, I was consciously aware that those business clothes might need to be moving centre stage…yikes!

This brings me to today’s job…sorting out our Summer and Winter clothes and boxing the Summer clothes up and having some snug woolly jumpers to wear, instead of needing a dog on my lap. Well, make that in addition to to dog!

Speaking of dogs, Bilbo has parked himself right next to my chair and his nose is almost on the laptop. You see, I’m eating a Vegemite sandwich with my cup of tea and dogs LOVE Vegemite. Lady, who as second fiddle has to sit further away, is lying on the floor just as keen but more of a sleeping assassin.

Van Gogh Sunflowers

Sunflowers – Vincent Van Gogh.

With all this rain, I’ll need to hang up my latest art acquisition: Sunflowers by Van Gogh. While other fools have forked out many millions for their Van Gogh, I picked mine up at the charity shop for $20.00. It might be a print but those sunflowers are still smiling at me and spreading their much needed cheer! Just what I need with the gloomy wet outside! Read more here.

By the way, my weekly flash fiction also fitted in well with all this  rain: A Rainbow In The Sky

How’s your week been ? Hope you’re all doing well.

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

xx Rowena