Tag Archives: writing

Weekend Coffee Share 10th January, 2022.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, I am going to launch off the New Year with a huge philosophical question: why do I always leave writing my coffee share posts down to the last second where I’m racing the clock and nearly missing out by a hair’s breadth?

This sums up 2022 so far and may look familiar to friends of Max the Dog.

I don’t know. Indeed, now more than ever, I have no excuse. The air is covid soup out there, and so I’m either at home or walking around in nature, although I must confess I went to the opportunity shop last week albeit wearing a mask and avoiding all human contact because right now we know EVERYONE has the plague, even if they haven’t fully appreciated it themselves. I guess that also includes me, and my cough, but I always have that so it would be hard to know. Although I’m triple vaccinated and take my daily dose of 1000mg vitamin C, I fully expect to KNOW if and when I get covid on account of my crappy lungs.

Anyway, I’ve become so distracted that I’m distracted from my distractions, and even spent two days entering my family history stuff into Wikitree like a woman possessed. To be honest, I can’t really explain it, but there I was populating cyberspace with all these people who were strangely represented by little Lego people in my head and their little Lego city started out as Surry Hills and Paddington in urban Sydney, and spread out over the Blue Mountains to a place called Rylstone near Orange. It’s a place I’ve never heard of before but it was interesting reading the little newspaper clippings I came across about their life out on the farm there, especially after they’d come out from Ireland.

In a sense it’s not surprising that my need for people interaction, family and friends has become rather warped when I’m an extrovert living underground. We just had Christmas at home with the four of us and were even counting the three dogs this year. Yes, that means there were actually seven of us for lunch and almost enough to constitute a “party”. My parents decided not to attend the big family Christmas to be on the safe side, and by the end of me trying to convinced them to go, Dad won out and we stayed away too. I couldn’t be sure our kids didn’t have it, and I didn’t want Dad’s siblings who are mostly over 70 catching it and going down badly.

However, we made our own day, and we razzled things up a bit with a genuine German Gingerbread House from our local German bakery, and we went driving around looking at the Christmas lights. These were people’s houses so mostly they weren’t as spectacular as what Natalie had to share from Toronto, but there were a few houses that really made a valiant effort. Indeed, they were completely over the top in a way that had to be be seen close up to be fully appreciated.

Not only did we cancel attending the big family Christmas, we also cancelled our annual family holiday to Byron Bay to see Geoff’s sister at Nureybar two doors down from Liam Hemsworth btw. We couldn’t be sure that we wouldn’t be taking covid with us and that area is heavily anti-vax and into natural therapies and it really didn’t feel like it was going to be a true holiday. That we’d be having to be so vigilant, we were better off at home. However, we will take a rain check.

So what with going without the big family Christmas and the holiday to Byron Bay, it sounds like we’ll soon be wearing hessian sackcloth and truly going without. Some would say there’s growth and something strangely cleansing about all of this. You know, leading the simple life and all that. I’m not so sure. I get onto that devil of envy Facebook and see friends smiling away and having real holidays. Am I smiling back at them? What you you reckon? I haven’t stayed away from Facebook completely but it’s definitely not my friend right now.

Meanwhile, outside beckons. Not in a pleasant way though. It’s telling me to go for a walk. Exercise. That’s wonderful when I get there. However, it’s rather cosy at home in the air-conditioning and it’s muggy out. You can almost see the steam rising off the lawn. There’s good reason to go into a sort of comatosed limbo right now and wake up in March when it’s not so hot, muggy, and this covid peak they’re promising is gone. I can go into a crowded room of friends again with a mask and smile, hug and drink champagne without keeling over dead.

So, I’m probably not the best entertainment right now. However, I can recommend a good book. I loved reading Amanda Lohrey’s: The Labyrinth, and I’ve started reading Kay Warren’s: Choose Joy. I really should’ve been delving into that, because I’m been choosing to grumble instead. Well, grumble might be understating things a little but you get my drift.

Anyway, Geoff and I have been going on quite a few walks and even a trip to the Mt Penang Parklands, although the photos are still on my phone and in the pipeline, as the saying goes.

Well, I have to admit I’m proud of myself. I’ve been typing like crazy against the clock and thought that my hour was up but I still have 45 minutes to go. Well, of course, I still need to add a few photos and pretty it up a bit. I’ll even add a few links. Gee, you’re going to get all the bells and whistles now when I thought I might need to cut it short and come back later to finish it up.

This means I can now share my top ten songs for transitioning from 2021 to 2022:

I also shared a few insights into what Christmas 1921 was like after such a strange and challenging couple of years. Of course, we think we’re badly off and the world’s never known anything like this before, even though we’ve all heard of the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1919 and there was something about two world wars as well. However, why let truth get in the way of a good story? Anyway, I shared a letter English-Australian author Ethel Turner, wrote to Australian children in 1921 and a fundraising drive she organised, while also writing a post setting the political and cultural context. Our 2021 wasn’t so bad after all.

Anyway, I have vowed to be more organised next week. Actually do my Weekend Coffee Share on the weekend instead of Monday afternoon Sydney time.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

Christmas 1921 with Ethel Turner and the Sunbeamers

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

After providing a brief sketch of the state of play during Christmas 1921 in my previous post, we’re now going to spend Christmas 1921 with famous English-Australian author, Ethel Turner, whose first novel: Seven Little Australians placed her up on the international literary stage. However, she also wrote 39 other novels, and of more relevance to us, she edited a string of children’s pages in various publications, and it’s here where we’ll be touching down.

Born on the 24th January, 1870, Ethel Turner was 51 years old in 1921, and a year younger than I am now. She was married to Judge Herbert Curlewis and they were living at their home in Avenel, Mosman, Sydney although they spent Christmas 1921 at Palm Beach. Daughter, Jean,  was twenty-three, and son Adrian was twenty and studying Law at Sydney University. By Christmas 1921, Ethel Turner had had 22 of her handwritten  novels published, and King Anne was her offering for the year. She was famous.

However, for Ethel Turner it wasn’t the empty fame of celebrity. Rather, there was a strong sense of purpose and a desire to make a difference, and do good. While I can be dangerous to interpret Three Little Maids as being purely biographical, there is also much truth and Dolly (who is said to be Ethel) made this statement about becoming an author: “One night…I felt I must do something. I felt I couldn’t just go on doing little things always,-staying at home and helping, and going to dances, and playing tennis. I used to think I should like to go as a missionary, – not to China, of course, only somewhere here where people were very poor and miserable. But that night I didn’t seem to want anything but to write books that people would love to read, and that might do them some good.[1]

This aspect of Ethel Turner is often lost….the visionary, the world-changer, the woman who had experienced financial hardship as a child and relocated across the world for a better life, worked hard and overcome. She’s simply viewed through the lens of Seven Little Australians as though she were a one book wonder. However, it appears that the massive difference she made to the lives of children through the series of children’s pages she edited has been forgotten, along with how she nurtured the artistic and literary abilities of younger generations through these pages. She was such an inspiration!

The trouble is that it’s very hard to condense an inspiration into a few lines or words to satisfy those who don’t want to immerse themselves more fully into the longer story. However, in this instance, can I caution you to sit down. Make yourself a cup of tea, and in the words of the great Molly Meldrum: “Do yourselves a favour!”

We’re going to pick up with Ethel Turner on the 20th November 1921.  Sunbeams had only been launched on the 9th October, 1921, and just over a month old, and still in the nest. Yet, that didn’t stop Ethel Turner from launching an ambitious plan to make a difference that Christmas:

“FROM A CHAIR IN THE SUN

ABOUT SUN FAIRIES

Dear Young People, — One of the many tastes we have in common, you and I, Is our love for conjuring tricks. Here is one I particularly want you to try. Take a child with the corners of its mouth right down and its eyes running over with tears (there are any amount of them in the hospitals and crowded back streets, alas). Go up close to it, and with a quick sleight-of-hand slip into its fingers a tiny doll as pretty as a fairy. In less than half a minute the eyes will dry and the mouth corners go up. This trick has never been known to fail. So now then, let us do it together. Your part is to buy a tiny celluloid doll or kewpie, dross it in something very fairylike — gay and pretty, or comical as an elf — put it in a, tiny box, and post or hand it in to “Sunbeams.” My part will be to find the children in the hospitals and back streets about Christmas time. I shall also examine the dolls carefully — we will call them Sun Fairies— and give three prizes of half-a-crown each to the three most attractive ones, and six “Sun” honor cards. You need send no coupon with this competition, as the doll will cost you anything from twopence to sixpence. Send December 1st.

Yours ever,

Ethel Turner[2]

Ethel Turner received an enthusiastic and touching response to her call for contributions. On the 11th December, 1921, she wrote:

“THE SUN FAIRIES

ROOMFUL OF WONDERFUL DOLLS DAME MARGARET DAVIDSON’S WINNERS

The response to the “Sun” fairies competition was splendid and many little “Sunbeams” will be cheered by the really wonderful little dolls sent in… It was a lovely spirit which prompted the competitors to send in the dolls — they were not concerned with winning prizes, but with doing something with their own hands which would give pleasure to children, to whom dainty dolls are a rare and precious luxury. Many of the children marked their entries: “Not sent in for a prize,” and pinned to almost every doll was a pretty little greeting to the recipient. They sat about all over the floor and the chairs and tables rather impatient in their boxes, just as trapped butterflies might be; they were eager to be gone upon their task of carrying sunshine. They were dressed in silk and spangles, in little frilly skirts of lace, in bridal gowns; in elf costumes; there were little mother fairies with tiny children around them, father fairies, fussy and important, fairies with opera cloaks on, and carrying bags; baby fairies, red riding hood fairies; one or two arrived with their beds and bedding, a few with suit-cases for the week-end and complete wardrobes. Wendy came, together with John and Michael, and Peter Pan. And wands! There were enough wands to have enchanted all Sydney and turned it to happy ways had they been held up. And no one, not any one, had forgotten the pretty little card with “From one Sunbeam to another” and other affectionate greetings. Dorothy Makin’s box of dolls, which won first prize, lacked only the bride groom to make the wedding party complete. But then it is so difficult to make a fairy-like creature of a man who should be dressed strictly in black. It was a rainbow wedding, and the bride chose ivory satin for her gown. She also had an overskirt of lace, and trimmed her whole frock with pearls. She wore the usual wreath and veil, and carried a bouquet of white blossoms and a fan. Her maids were frocked in rose, mauve, coral and eau-de-nil silk net, and wore quaint filets round their heads. Just by way of being different, they all carried fans instead of bouquets. Five little fairies, in five little boxes with five little Christmas cards, were sent by Betty Blake, who was second prize-winner. Betty dressed her fairies in white lace, showing beribboned petticoats. Glinting beads of gold and silver shone like spangles on the little dolls which will gladden the hearts of sick children on Christmas Day. Betty Grimm’s Sunbeamer was dressed in her party frock of rose-colored silk net, and she carried a lovely curling white feather fan. (But even fairies cannot live in party frocks all the time, so Betty sent along a box full of neatly made clothes for everyday wear, and did not forgot even a tiny tin of powder to powder her nose.[3]

Of course, this touching story of generosity and human kindness is not complete without hearing about the sun fairies final destinations:

THE SUN FAIRIES: How The Kiddies Loved Them”

I know that all of you who made a “Sun” Fairy will be delighted to hear how much joy they gave to the children who received them. Here are two letters which tell you all about them:–A.I.F. Wives and Children’s Holiday Association.

Furlough House, Narrabeen. Dear Sunbeams, — The dear little sun fairies arrived quite safely, and as fresh as when’ they left the designers’ hands. I am sure if the little donors could have seen the pleasure they afforded when received on Christmas Day they would be delighted to know they were indeed sun fairies in so much as they made radiance shine from each receiver’s face. With all good wishes to the Sunbeams from all the soldiers’ children at “Furlough House,” Yours sincerely, Ruby Fowle, Matron The second letter comes from Mrs Lyster Ormsby, who in the crowded streets of the city has for years sought to bring joy and sunlight into the lives of the little children there. Soup Kitchen for Little Children, 40 Burton-street, Darlinghurst. Dear Little Sunbeams,— I want to thank you for the dainty little ladies, fairies and babies the came to the Soup Kitchen during Christmas week. They came all neatly tucked away in a box, and was told they were to be given to some of the poor little’ girlies that I know as presents from “one Sunbeam to another. Well it happened that some of my little pals were hanging round when I unpacked your box and if you could have heard the “O-o-ohs” and “A-a-ahs” of admiration that came from them as I drew each dolly out of the box, you would have felt that you had sent a real sunbeam along. I gave your dollies away in many different quarters, and I feel sure you will be glad to know that each and every one received a warm and loving welcome from the new mistress. Among my little Soup Kitchen Girlies was one who has just left school and so felt too big for a doll. She always has a real live baby in mind-but still I could tell by the look in her face that she was just envying all the smaller girls; so I picked out a tiny kewpie doll that had been so prettily dressed in baby frills and I said: “I know you’re fourteen, Alice, and too big for dolls — (she thinks she is, you know) – but this is a Kewpie for luck and it goes on the rail of your bedstead. Would you like it?” She just loved it, and rushed off home to put it on her bed right away, “Good-bye, little Sunbeams, and a happy new year to you all from Inys Ormsby.[4]

And now we’ll back peddle just a little, and read Ethel Turner’s Christmas Day letter to her Sunbeamers:

A VERY MERRY XMAS FROM A CHAIR IN THE SUN

Christmas Day

Dear Young People,—

Do you know Anna? What Anna? Merry Christmas anna happy New Year. Yes, I know this is the seventh time you have been asked this same joke, but that is the best about Christmas Day, isn’t it, there is such a rosy, kindly light everywhere, that you are ready to smile seven times at anything and everything. I hope that you are, every one of you, as happy as larks to-day: the boy with the sixpenny humming top, as well as the one with the expensive aeroplane. Happiness, real lark-like happiness, isn’t a thing to be bought with money; it is a thing right inside you. There is really an amazing amount of it lying about free in a sunshiny land like this; believe me it is not shut up in those expensive toyshops, pleasant though those places are. Happiness is just a little light, bubbling thing that you make for yourself, just as the lark makes its song. Good-bye till next week. Do you know Anna?

The Sunbeamer[5]

I hope you have been each to absorb each of these letters word by word, and truly absorb an Ethel Turner who might appear idealistic, utopian and off with the very fairies she was passing on. However, aim low has never had much of a ring to it, has it?!! I personally found her sentiments so heart-warming and encouraging, and way too good to be lost for eternity in a bunch of newsprint.

So, I hope you and yours are managing to find some of that lark-like happiness this Christmas and carry it into the New Year as well.

Best wishes,

Rowena Curtin


[1] Ethel Turner, `Three Little Maids, pp 302-303.

[2] Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 20 November 1921, page 2

[3] Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 11 December 1921, page 2

[4] Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 15 January 1922, page 2

[5] (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 25 December 1921, page 22

Mum’s Taxi Revisits Mt Penang Gardens, North of Sydney.

It’s been quite awhile since you’ve heard a peep let alone a loud beep from Mum’s Taxi (AKA the Tutu Taxi). Being in lockdown for the last almost three months and throughout the last 18 months, I’ve literally been able to hang up my keys, stay in my pyjamas and write to my heart’s content. As blissful as that might sound for any writer, writing in lockdown is quite different to being a poet ensconced in your ivory tower. So, it was hardly no prison cell and I was allowed outside for exercise and could go walking along the beach, bushwalking or visit my friend in his social bubble. However, it’s not the same when park benches are covered in red tape because you’re not allowed to sit down, everyone’s wearing masks unless they’re exercising, and you have to QR code to enterjust about anywhere. So, it was with a mixture of jubilation, trepidation and continued isolation, that the people of Greater Sydney welcomed Freedom Day a few weeks ago.

Anyway, on Tuesday our daughter told me I was driving her up to get eyelash extensions. She paid for them. I wasn’t going to spend out money on that. I’ve never been a fan of fake eyelashes. However, she wears them for ballet concerts, competitions etc and so I guess once you’ve crossed that bridge, it makes more sense.

However, what she didn’t tell me was how long it was going to take. Now, I should’ve been prepared to hang round for eternity. After all, isn’t that what parents do for their kids? Wait?!! I’m not into all this cosmetic beauty stuff and how it all works. However, I did take a book, my journal and regretted not taking my SLR and just having the camera on my phone.

I started walking around looking for a park bench in the shade to read my book. By the way, I was reading Julia Baird’s: Phosphorescence: On awe, wonder and things that sustain you when the world goes dark. It’s an absolutely brilliant book, and what I’d describe as a “slow read”. I wanted to savour and enjoy almost each and every word. So, it’s taken me a very long time to finish it. Indeed, I started reading it in September last year. Honestly I thought it had been a year or even three. Here’s one great quote from the book:

Life is tempestuous and life is precious, and recognising that those two things are twinned is part of the secret of the truly phosphorescent.”

Julia Baird

There wasn’t much left to read, and I seemed to finish it off in about an hour. Of course, there was that great sense of regret you have when you finish a book you love and wave goodbye to your new best friend. Although I immediately decided I was going to start back at the beginning again. I really want to etch this book into my psyche and remember it all. It’s filled with stories and quotes from numerous thinkers and poets and it’s so very me. It’s like exploring a fascinating and exhilarating world, and I have also made a note to self to head out on a night kayak run with my husband and experience the Phosphorescence first hand for myself.

After finishing my book, I walked around the gardens regretting I hadn’t bought my digital SLR. However, the camera on my phone didn’t do too bad a job. Yet at the same time, I wondering whether photographing wildflowers in a man-made garden really counted, especially after going on some magnificent bushwalks and photographing the wildflowers actually in situ and in the wild. Isn’t it just like photographing lions in the zoo rather than heading off to Africa? The photos still look good. Indeed, they probably look a lot better, but they’re simply not the same.

Anyway, while I was there reading my book, I glanced up and noticed what appeared to be a class or two of young kids running down a steep, small grassy hill. They were having an absolute ball, and there is something so liberating about running fast down a grassy hill as a young child which almost feels like flying and you’re about to take off. Apparently, when I told friend about this my face was so animated that he asked me what childhood memories it brought back. There wasn’t anything specific and I can’t remember a lot of hills, but the exhilaration is still with me and perhaps I should sneak in there after dark and let myself go.

Reading my book and watching all those kids running must’ve done my head in, because yours truly who has been to this park a couple of times before, got lost and couldn’t find the exit. Indeed, I found myself stuck inside a maze. This is what happens when you’re exploring man-made garden instead of the bush. The bush is simple. You go in. You come out. Well, it is where I’ve been going bushwalking but these are hardly complicated hikes. Of course, I blame lockdown for this. So many everyday kills have been neglected and have rusted away. Indeed, I’m sure four months of solid repetitive research and writing at home has literally rewired my brain and done all sorts to my neuropathways. Indeed, while being so focused on a lockdown project so I’d have something to show for all that time might actually prove a mixed blessing.

Anyway, two hours later, my phone rang and I was summonsed to pick her up. We were going to go for a bushwalk together, however, it was now raining and so we raided a local bakery and had lunch in the car looking out onto the beach.

My daughter’s glasses on the dashboard looking out across our local beach.

And yes, the eyelashes certainly looked spectacular. Not completely ridiculous either, but not the sort of thing a hibernating bear requires. I’m actually looking forward to going to the hairdresser next week, and guess who is coming with me…

Looking out at the beach through the rainy windscreen while eating our lunch.

Have you been on any good walks recently or read any book books? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Launching New Blog – Tea With Ethel Turner.

Last week , I launched a new blog – Tea With Ethel Turner – and I’d love you to come over and and hopefully follow me over there as well.

Ethel Turner is such an inspiration. Best known for her 1894 classic: Seven Little Australians, she wrote 40 novels for young adults, diaries, and edited children’s pages in a range of publications. Obviously, she was a very prolific writer, and I doubt she ever suffered from writer’s block for long.

It’s also worth noting that Ethel Turner wrote with a view of having her work published and read widely. Unlike so many writers, her work didn’t spend years in her bottom drawer. Indeed, even when she was at school, she and her older sister produced a rival school newspaper after her work had been rejected.

Then, as time went by and she was editing the Sunbeams pages in the Sun newspaper, it was Ethel doing the rejecting and lamenting a lack of space to publish the works of more of her young contributors. She also encouraged young children to write and gave them writing advice as well as broadening their general knowledge and exposure to literary classics. It also seems she was trying to build a new and better world after the horrors of the Great War, and these children were that future.

Above: Ethel with her older sister Lillian.

So, bearing all that in mind, I had enough material and inspiration to sink a battleship, and I felt she deserved her own bubble, and Beyond the Flow should remain my own space. That as much as I revere and admire Ethel Turner, I didn’t want to become her alone. I still have such a diverse range of other writing interests.

Here are links to my posts so far:

Ethel Turner enjoying her chair in the sun at home 1915.

Meanwhile, now that I’ve launched into this, I can’t help wondering what I’ve got myself into. Sure, I’ve unearthed a a veritable treasure trove, but I’d only read two of her books, and barely stuck my nose into her biography by AT Yarwood: From A Chair in the Sun and a complication of her diary entries by her grand-daughter, Philippa Poole. What was I thinking? Yet, I’ve also been working incredibly hard. I’ve read years worth of her “Chief Sunbeamer” columns as well as numerous press interviews and reviews. The advantage of blogging is that you can in effect publish as you go, and you can also correct any mistakes, embellish here and there before it’s set in stone in print. I am also a firm believer in collaborative research, especially when it comes to such an superlative shaper of Australian literature, culture and young minds. She is too big for one mind.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and hope you might join me on this exciting journey of discovery.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share- 13th September, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? I hope you and yours are going well. I should’ve hot-footed it out the door as soon as I woke up this morning, because it was sunny, and I knew the rain was coming. However, you can’t carpe diem, and seize every day, and some days will just pass through to the keeper. That’s not to say I’m not seizing the day in other ways. I’ve been writing, and it’s a shame it doesn’t count as exercise, because I’d be very fit.

Yes, the word count is doing so much better, than the step count!

Last Thursday, was Geoff’s and my 20th Wedding Anniversary. We were married on the 9th September, 2001 at my school chapel, which was rather interesting because I went to an all girls’ school and we weren’t allowed to talk to boys in school uniform. Well, of course, I was hardly in school uniform when we got married, but I couldn’t resist having this kiss in front of the school office. I was a bit cheeky. However, when you go to a very strict, single-sex school, it leaves an impression.

Being in lockdown has presently seriously restricted our capacity to celebrate our wedding anniversary, along with Geoff’s work. The IT network at the hospital not unsurprisingly knew it was a special day and didn’t want their guardian angel actually having sometime off- especially with his wife. (The dogs weren’t impressed with it either, and Geoff was besieged by dogs armed with tennis balls when he arrived home last night). However, overtime does have it’s perks and it will help to fund our getaway if we ever manage to escape!

In the plane over New Zealand.

Anyway, thanks to lock down, I needed to get creative about celebrating our wedding anniversary. Although we went to New Zealand for our honeymoon, I decided we’d “go to Tassie” and relive a number of magical holidays in one of the few ways open to us – food. Geoff’s from Tassie and his father’s cousin’s own Ashgrove Farm Cheese in Elizabeth Town, somewhat near Launceston. We order a box of assorted cheeses from them, and a kilo of gourmet alcohol truffles from The House of Anvers nearby. Talk about pure indulgence. They’ll last for awhile, which is probably just as well, but it’s good to know that beautiful memories can taste good too.

The other aspect of our wedding, and in particular our honeymoon, is 9/11. We were married two days before the terrorist attacks, and flew to New Zealand 6-8 hours afterwards. It is hard to remember the sequence of events and it’s all complicated by the huge time difference. However, I think we worked out that the first plane hit around 10.45pm Sydney time and we were at the airport about 6.00am on the 12th. It was pretty terrifying, and the other complicating factor was that one of Australia’s major airlines, Ansett, went belly up that week and so my poor 87 year old grandfather from Brisbane who wasn’t much of a traveller, was suddenly abandoned in Sydney Paddington Bear style and couldn’t get home. This caused him and my Mum a lot of stress, but fortunately Qantas came to the rescue and got him home.

You can read more about that here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/09/10/honeymooning-through-9-11-2001/

I also posted a letter which appeared in the order of service at the wedding: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/09/13/a-view-to-eternity-a-letter-from-the-bride-9th-september-2001/

Before I head off, I just wanted to share an incredible duet which appeared on The Voice last night. It was the Australian finale, and in addition to performing their solo numbers, each artist also performed a duet with their coach. Bella Taylor-Smith and her coach, Guy Sebastian performed The Prayer and it was out of this world sensational. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Here’ the link:

Anyway, I’d better head off and get this posted quick smart. I must be the last person to post every week. However, I’m busy most weekends.

Anyway, this has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 29th March, 2021

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

I’m hoping I’ve made the deadline this week. It’s actually Monday night here in Sydney, which might not sound like much of a weekend coffee share, but when you’re busy over the weekend, Monday can be a good time to decamp.

So, how are you? How has your week been?

Whopping big clouds are great for photography, but more of a concern on a practical level.

Mine has been wet, with intermittent sunshine. I’m not sure whether you’ve heard about the flooding through NSW on Australia’s East Coast? We’re right where we are. However, reports show that in the last week, the entire NSW coast has been drowned by at least 200 millimetres, and in some places, more than 400mm of rain. To put that in context, Sydney averages 132mm of rain for the whole month of March. Flooding stretches 600 kilometres from Sydney to the Northern Rivers. The other difficulty, is that some of the areas experiencing the worst flooding, were also hard hit by the bush fires and the drought before that. That a pretty brutal trifecta that the Little Aussie Battler might laugh off in public, but it’s “hard yakka” and the farmers need every bit of help they can get. That is along with the animals. I heard a heart-breaking story of a Taree farmer losing 200 head of cows and has had a few of them turn up all over the place, including the beach. The cows are apparently having a rough time. Having their hoofs submerged in the flood waters has water-logged their hoofs and it’s hurting them to walk. I saw where they’re been laying down carpet in the paddocks to help them. Extraordinary, isn’ t it?!! Here’s a clip: https://www.manningrivertimes.com.au/story/7179146/carpet-needed-for-cows-at-oxley-island-video/

However, it hasn’t been all rain.

There’s been a dazzling fusion of sun, rain and incredible clouds, which is the perfect prescription for photography. I was actually quite lucky to get these photos, because if I hadn’t been babysitting my friend’s son and had promised to take him to the park, I probably would’ve been shut away inside at home doing my research without any conscious awareness of what was going on outside and I would’ve missed all this incredibly majestic beauty. It was one of the best sunsets we’ve had in a long time. Of course, the trouble with exceptionally magnificent skies like this, is dangerous storms, exceptionally heavy rain and even hail. I’ve been caught in all of the above before so I know all about it. The only trouble was this time I had my friend’s son in tow. So, he was told he had about 15 minutes at the park, and we might have to leave very quickly and make a run for it. One half of the sky was a very deep purple, and a series of huge, double-decker cumulous clouds had invaded the other half. Then, I spotted the rainbow arching over a mountain of cloud rising over the beach. Magic. I didn’t have my SLR with me, but the photos from my phone were still incredible.

We have just gone into the last week of the school term. So, it’s been Open Week at my daughter’s dance school. She recently turning 15 and she’s pretty serious about it. So, she’s getting to the pointy end of things. So, it’s been amazing to watch her and her classmates dance. She also had an audition where we were able to watch her perform, and that was a treat as well. We’re also very grateful that she’s been able to return to dancing in public and almost “back to normal”. I still don’t take it for granted, even though we’re having an amazing run.

Speaking of Covid, Geoff and myself along with our 17 year old son are getting vaccinated with the Astra Zeneca vaccine tomorrow. I was feeling very excited. Then, our daughter said her friend’s mum has been feeling really sick afterwards. So, now I’m feeling like I should double-check. Oh, no I shouldn’t. “She’ll be right, mate”. What choice do I have? Being immuno-suppressed and having lung fibrosis, I can’t risk catching Covid. Then, it could well be all over red rover.

I am making good progress on my WWI research and writing project. I now have the foundations of an introduction and a reasonably detailed plan. I also have a lot of gaps. However, at this stage I’m just wanting to get enough together to apply for a research grant. This first stage of the production line, is looking at the Australian Home Front from the announcement of war to the final return of the troops in 1919.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. As I said before, I hope you’re having a good week and don’t find yourself in lock down wherever you are.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer at https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

My Year-End Search For Wisdom in Verse…

There’s probably a special word to describe the gap of time in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. If there isn’t, there ought to be, and perhaps I’ll get the ball rolling by calling it a “pregnant pause”.

After all, the lead up to Christmas is always absolutely frantic, and then you have exactly a week to rest, recover, put the old year to bed, while developing either a word or a list of resolutions for the new year, along with strategies and tactics for implementation and success. After all, you don’t want to start the new year off with an instant fail, do you? Especially, after 2020! No, we need to do everything in our power to get 2021 off to a good start. Indeed, we could well need a magic wand.

So, after watching The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy the other night, I decided I turn to the wisdom of British bard, Geoff Le Pard, who sent me his The Sincerest Form of Poetry a few months ago. In my usual well-intentioned way, I offered to write a review, and got side-tracked, and this “pregnant pause” at the end of what’s been the weirdest year I’ve ever had, seemed the perfect time to get on with the job.

I’ve lost count of how long Geoff and I have been bantering in the blogosphere. However, you can find Geoff at TanGental https://geofflepard.com/. I read and enjoyed his anthology online, and again once the hardcover version arrived in the mail. I really loved it, and it made a huge difference knowing him all this time.

However, as much as I enjoyed the poems, I was struggling to write my review. Although I’d reviewed his novels before, I found reviewing an anthology of poetry much more challenging. There were so many ideas inside, and what was I supposed to say? Why couldn’t he just write it for me, and I’d Australianize it to make it sound authentic? Of course, that’s cheating.

So, I decided to take a different approach.

Indeed, after I read The Sincerest Form of Poetry, I found myself questioning whether we still need poetry in the 21st Century. Or, has it become redundant, obsolete, and irrelevant? Indeed, has it gone the way of the chalkboard, a 35mm roll of film, the VCR, cassette tapes and by and large, the Christmas card? Taking a leaf out of Nietzsche’s book…Is poetry dead?

As a poet myself, my immediate response was: “Of course not!” The inner yearnings of the soul still matter, and are as relevant now as they’ve always been. Indeed, I’d even argue that we’ve needed poetry in 2020 more than ever, after Covid brought us to our knees.

However, even I’ve been corrupted by the forces of practicality, reason, and putting a meal on the table. As much as it’s good to ponder things, sometimes, you just need to get on with the job. Or, in the words of the Brits: “Keep calm and carry on!”

Moreover, it would also be fair to say, that there have always been people who have found poetry irrelevant, incomprehensible, alien drivel. There is also poetry that’s pretty dreadful, too, and doesn’t do us poets any favours. Not all poetry should see the light of day.

However, for me personally, when life isn’t going to plan for whatever reason, that’s when I turn to poetry for comfort, solace, connection, understanding, empathy as well as simply immersing myself in beautiful words.

So, 2020 and this dreadful covid pandemic, has been the perfect time for poetry.

Knowing Geoff, who is rather unassuming much of the time in his enchanting English way, he’d never set himself up as THE ultimate interpreter of life, the universe and everything. Indeed, he’d be rather aghast that I’m viewing his anthology through this light. However, for the first half of the anthology, Geoff repurposed poems which appeared in a collection of the greatest British poets compiled by the BBC for National Poetry Day in 1995. So, you’ve got a good chance of finding something meaningful in there somewhere.

Some of these poems and their progeny include:

Leisure – William Henry Davies Now – Dog At Leisure

How Do I Love You? – Sonnets From The Portuguese XLIII, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

This Be the Verse – Philip Larkin Now – Contradicting The Curmudgeon

Home Thoughts From Abroad – Robert Browning Now – Foreign Is Quite Ghastly.

If – Rudyard Kipling Now – If (Or When) The Truth Finally Dawns.

Christmas – John Betjeman Now – Christmas 2018

Upon Westminster Bridge – William Wordsworth Now – Dog Show.

Sonnet 130 – William Shakespeare Now – Only Skin Deep.

Sonnet 91 – William Shakespeare Now – Life Lessons (For An Englishman).

Twas the Night Before Christmas – Clement Clark Moore Now – We’re All Santas Now.

The Glory of the Garden – Rudyard Kipling.

…..

So, what wisdom have I gleaned from Geoff Le Pard’s book of verse?

Here goes…

“Come friend, reject facebook, texts and tweets

And all your social media conceits.

To win this war, you’ll need to be better,

Buy some stamps and write them a letter”.

In Christmas 2018, he asks:

“So what’s the point of Christmas time?

We have to ask ourselves

Surely it’s more than a cheesy rhyme

Sung by unpaid elves?

It’s time we took back full control

Of all to do with Xmas

We need to hold a people’s poll

And get out the vote for Brexmas.”

In Life Lessons (For An Englishman), which could well apply to rogue Australian women as well, he writes:

“Contentment’s path is clear, as was ever thus:

Always say you’re sorry and never make a fuss.”

I have gained much wisdom, support and understanding over the years through my friendship with Geoff. We used to belong to a blogshare called “One Thousand Voices for Compassion” which sprang up after the Paris bombings in January 2015, and tried to make the world a better place. We’ve also had a heart for fringe dwellers and those who don’t quite fit the norm or any approved prescription, which for better or worse, seems to include us. Through this time, my kids have almost grown up and his daughter recently got married and Geoff had the honour of walking her down the aisle. On top of this, we both have dogs, who I swear must be a tad dyslexic, and think they’re God.

However, before I head off, which indeed was my intention, I can’t help noticing these poems depict a world which is lusciously pre-covid. He’s out there walking his dog in the park without wearing a mask or being fined; and I’m not too sure how many folk are currently sharing his desire: “Oh, to be in England/rather than abroad…” Rather, I’d say now more than ever, the English wish they were in Australia or New Zealand, and especially well away from their more virulent form of the virus.

If that doesn’t entice you to at least wander over to check out Geoff’s blog and consider ordering The Sincerest Form of Poetry, I’m not sure what else I could do. I don’t think you want me to tap dance on the table. I hope you enjoy it!

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I apologise that this review might be a little stilted, even garbled. It turns out this precious pregnant pause between Christmas and New Year’s Eve has been sabotaged by our teenage son who decided to clean up his room, by channelling everything into our loungeroom and tomorrow night we’re having a dinner party. OMG! It looks like Mt Vesuvius erupted and spewed her guts in an almighty blast. However, although we’re almost buried in his mess, his room is remarkably clear. Indeed, that’s the very sort of thing which inspires poetry, don’t you think?! However, somehow I’m stuck for words.

A Meeting of Minds….Walks With My Friend.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

C.S. Lewis

When you think about what remains of our life stories after we’re gone, it’s all about family connections…DNA. However, most of us can’t live with family as our only source of human interaction. We also need friends.

Every friendship is unique, just like our fingerprints. No two friendships are the same, which means we need to cherish each and every friend like gold, and they’re certainly not simply a stepping stone to get us where we’re wanting to go. Rather, I’d prefer to think about how I could ease my friend’s journey in some way, although I’ve had some truly wonderful friends who’ve been literal lifesavers when I’ve been seriously ill, barely able to look after my kids and they’ve driven them to and from daycare, school, fed them, cooked us meals or simply, and very importantly, listened. Finding understanding and acceptance, especially given my rare health and disability issues, has been a struggle and such a God-send when I’ve found it.  There are those two parallel footprints in the sand. We’re each independent and carrying our own load, but we’re also there with and for each other through life’s ups and downs, cups of coffee, walks along the beach and no doubt through the storms.

Footprints Pearl BeachThese photographs of footprints in the sand could tell a story of their own. However, they were actually taken while I was out walking along Pearl Beach with my friend who I’ll call “Henry’. I turned around and saw our footprints side-by-side in the sand stretching uninterrupted almost along the full length of the beach and they told a story of friendship, and what it means to be a friend. Well at least that’s what these two sets of parallel footprints said to me.

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”
– Muhammad Ali 

In many ways my friendship with Henry breaks a few taboos. As you know, I’m married to Geoff and well you might ask what’s the story of my friendship with Henry? To put you at ease, Roland is the same age as my Mum and Dad and while some people might go for that kind of age difference, it definitely puts up a roadblock for both of us. Besides, I am clearly and most definitely married and if I was going to have an affair, I wouldn’t be hanging out once a week at a local cafe next door to the bookshop where Henry and I met. Rather, I’d be heading off to Sydney well and truly away from this goldfish bowl where everyone knows yours and everyone else’s business.

“I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod, my shadow does that much better.

-Plutarch.

By the way, I first met Henry a few years ago in our local bookshop.  He was looking for books about WWII German history to write about his father’s war service as a Polish fighter pilot in the RAF. I knew of a good book through my own German/European heritage on my mum’s side and so we had that cultural connection, as well as our shared writing interest. Henry and I also made time for each other. Time to meet for coffee once a week, and at much the same time every week… very much like clockwork. Many of my friends don’t operate like clockwork, or don’t feel the need for that weekly coffee/ tea fix. However, I need it just like I need food and water and the car needs to be topped up with petrol. Geoff has joined us a few times, and the kids have met him. Moreover,  they know that my meetings with Henry are set in stone unless it’s mission critical. Aside from my violin lessons, there haven’t been many restrictions placed on my time since I stopped work a few years ago and I think it’s good for them to know I’m not available on tap. Another thing I really appreciate about my friendship with Henry, is that he takes me seriously. He sees something more in me than this incomplete, imperfect scrambling character I see inside myself, and he gives me hope. Reads my writing and takes it seriously and even edits it and provides suggestions. He is kind, considerate and in the mould of his chivalrous Polish father, a gentleman and someone I trust and can truly rely on.

Roland & Rowena

Our shadows captured walking down the beach…Henry with his cap on and me lugging my camera bag along.

 

“It’s your road, and yours alone, others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.”

– Rumi

Henry’s friendship has also been a very important for me during the coronacrisis. For a few months there, he was all but my only physical social contact outside the family. He is fastidious about maintaining social distancing, is very protective of my health and also has a small social circle and takes precautions when he’s out. Our cafe’s been closed and I’m not quite ready to head back yet So, we’ve been going for walks along the beach instead. We did actually try to get a coffee at Pearl Beach last week but that all stops at 2.30pm over there so we didn’t have the opportunity to support local business. Gotta say, I was pretty disappointed, but we’re still coming out of covid and it is Winter here and there aren’t a lot of people around. However, they can also become a viscous circle.

DSC_0158

A few years ago, I used to have my dog-walking friends who were important to me. However, mornings and I haven’t been well acquainted of late and that’s fallen by the wayside. Moreover, I’ve seriously missed all the incidental friendships, which are structured around our activities and haven’t happened during lock down. Unfortunately, although dance has returned to the studio, parents are excluded and I’m still being cautious. The coronavirus is down, but not out.

Ferry and big clouds2

This massive cauliflower-shaped cloud decided to join us as well as a pod of dolphins which I didn’t quite manage to capture on film.

Anyway, might I encourage us all to unapologetically pursue and maintain our friendships. Indeed, I’ve made some really strong friendships through blogging, which have added a very interesting and largely international dimension.

Friendship matters!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Making Up Friends…Charles Dickens Quote.

“It is the fate of most men who mingle with the

world, and attain even the prime of life, to

make many real friends, and lose them in the

course of nature. It is the fate of all authors or

chroniclers to create imaginary friends, and

lose them in the course of art. Nor is this the

full extent of their misfortunes; for they are

required to furnish an account of them

besides.”

― Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers

For those of you who have written novels, how have you felt when you’ve reached the end and your relationship with your characters is over? Or, worse still, when you’ve killed off one of your favourites?

I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Z: ZZZZ…Motivational Quotes A-Z Challenge

“There is a time for many words, and there is also a

time for sleep.”

― Homer, The Odyssey

Welcome to the last day of my series of Motivational Quotes for Writers for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. Phew! I actually made it through to Z and on time, which has been quite a miracle this year. Although you could say many of us mad writers “belong in the zoo”, I have chose ZZZ or sleep as my word for Z.

You see, I’m not only needing to catch up on Zeds after powering away at the challenge while researching and writing my book, I also wanted to touch on the importance of getting enough sleep while your beavering away on your book. After all, chronic sleep deprivation is a form of madness itself.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have

promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”

Robert Frost

DSC_0175My husband will tell you that I’m the last person who should be giving anyone advice about sleep. Lately, I’m been burning the candle at both ends as it seems I always seem to make an incredible find around midnight and I have to keep going until I’ve completely unraveled and made sense of it all. Unfortunately, as we all know, time stands still for no man (or woman) and as much as I might try to steal a few hours out of the sleep bank, deep down I know I’m only cheating myself.

Perhaps, I should follow the advice of William Blake:

“Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the

evening. Sleep in the night.”

After all, it’s good to have a daily routine and have everything in the correct time slot. That is, instead of mixing them up and doing everything upside down staying up all night and sleeping all day when you should be getting a bit of sunshine and light into your day. It all makes so much sense, and yet for a night owl and for many mums with kids at home, those night hours are the only time you get a moment’s peace. Trading in that freedom for the boredom of routine is a tough ask, especially when the creative juices are flowing and you’re tasting success.

Yet, I also know that I think much more clearly after a good night’s sleep. That I often stay up writing long after I’ve started to nod off and it’s not my best work. Indeed, I could well be pressing delete in the morning.

Anyway, here are a few more sleep quotes I thought you might like:

“A person who has not done one half his day’s work by ten o’clock, runs a chance of leaving the other half undone.”
― Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?”
― Ernest Hemingway

“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
― Dr. Seuss

“I wonder why I don’t go to bed and go to sleep. But then it would be tomorrow, so I decide that no matter how tired, no matter how incoherent I am, I can skip one hour more of sleep and live.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Anyway, I need to practice what I preach and head off to bed. So it now

Ronnie Corbett:
And now, it’s goodnight from me…

Ronnie Barker:
…and it’s goodnight from him.

Best wishes,

Rowena