Thanks to Dan Antion over at No Facilities I have been lured into a new to me blog challenge this weekend- Stream of Consciousness Saturday #SoCS which is kindly hosted by Linda G Hill. Please head over there to get the full rules for the challenges, but here are the details for this week’s prompt. I must say I really enjoyed it. It’s been a good 20-30 years since I’ve done a strict stream of consciousness piece and was quite pleased with the results, which have more than a grain of truth.
“Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is starts with ‘u.’ Find a word that starts with the letter ‘u’ and use it however you’d like. Bonus points if it’s the first word in your post. Enjoy!”
“Ultimately, it’s not your responsibility. You can walk away. It’s only a job. There are plenty of others,” Kate told her husband who was the sole network engineer at Parliament House since covid and the staff cutbacks. The Australian people had no idea that Australia’s political and economical stability all rested on Mike’s aching shoulders. That he was the very one person holding this country together like a wretched safety pin. Sure, he was reliable, but he wasn’t infallible.
“What if I get covid? What happens then?” he asked.
“They’ll replace you. Everyone’s replaceable. You know that.” She said, telling him what he wanted to hear, and what the CIO* wanted to believe. However, Mike knew that wasn’t true. No one else cared about the network or understood its intricate inner workings like he did, and nobody fought to maintain its integrity and reliability either. Management should’ve been called “mismanagement”. They didn’t care about people, and they had no mechanical empathy either.
“Why don’t you just walk away before it’s too late, Mike? Your blood pressure’s skyrocketing. You’ve got pre-diabetes and I don’t mean to sound judgmental but you’ve really stacked on the kilos. We could sell up. Move to the country without a mortgage and be free from it all.”
Mike loved his wife, but just for this instance she was sounding like the devil. That wretched serpent luring, enticing him into sin: “You don’t have to go to work tomorrow,” he could hear this enticing voice luring him away. “Walk away. Leave them to deal with the consequences. If the entire country falls into a screaming heap, it’s not your fault. You’re just a cog in the machine. You could actually be lying in a deck chair by the pool sipping piña coladas without a care in the world.”
It all sounded way to good to be true, but he knew it was possible. The house was paid off. They had money in the bank. They could be free. Yet, Mike couldn’t be the one. He couldn’t be the one who brought Australia to its knees – even if it wasn’t his fault he was the only man left standing.
“You know, Mike, it would be really nice if you could just forget about work even for one night and give me your 100% undivided attention. I know that data centre isn’t another woman, but I can’t help feeling you understand it better than me and care more about keep it happy than me.”
“Crikey!” That’s what Mike dreaded more than a total network outage right across Parliament House where all that vitriol usually reserved for their political opponents suddenly hurled itself at him. At least,he knew he stood a chance of fixing that. His wife was a different story and while he wasn’t just capable of understanding machines, he didn’t do well when the going got tough. Got stuck on the finer points of interpersonal communication. That’s when he usually resorted to flowers or chocolates. He didn’t know how they did the trick, but they worked. That’s all that mattered.
Right on cue, his mobile rang. It was work. Almost in synch with his wife, the server was down. Couldn’t be dealt with remotely. He had to go in.”
Kate didn’t even need to ask. She knew where she came in the pecking order, and she knew he’d be back with flowers, chocolates anything but himself.
“A dose of covid,” she wondered, “might not be a curse after all. Indeed, long covid could even be the answer.”
CIO = Chief Information Officer
Hope you enjoyed it, and I’d love to hear from you.
Well, t feels like I’ve been lost in space lately. However, I enrolled in a Freelance Writing Course at the Australian Writers’ Centre a few weeks ago and I’ve been head down bum up reading magazines and writing bibs and bobs. Well, this week which is rapidly turning into last week, we had to interview one of our fellow students and write a 500 word profile. Just to make it extra tricky, they get us to undertake this exercise BEFORE we’ve learned about writing profiles. There’s apparently motive for their madness and they’ve found over time that this works best. Anyway, the idea was that they emailed us through the name and contact email of our person last Monday. However, I don’t know what was wrong with me, but I couldn’t find the email and contacted them on Thursday and I didn’t recognise the name in the email and didn’t hear back from her for a few days. Meanwhile, another student had their person fall through and so we profiled each other. Then, my person turns up. She lives in rural Norway about an hour’s drive North of Oslo and the idea of getting to know someone from Norway better was too tempting. So, we ended up profiling each other too. It was a very interesting exercise and I ended up capturing pages and pages of information on each of them. While that was great in theory and certainly far better than being stuck for words, it was quite daunting. After all, we didn’t know each other. All we know is that we write. My thinking was to go broad so if there was a good story there, I’d collect it. However, the obvious thing to look at was why they’d enrolled in the course and why they write.
What really came out of it, was that the three of us are juggling a lot of different things as well as our writing but naturally feel very drawn to writing as our thing and have varying degrees of faith that we can do it. Being so busy, it’s easy to feel that we’re procrastinating about our writing or letting it slide. However, there are only so many hours in the day. I am quite fortunate that I’m not trying to do this course while holding down a full time job, while also having the family to consider. I can largely put my heart and soul into it, and I am very grateful to Geoff for that luxury. He’s been working flat out lately.
The weather has been dreadful again here and it’s been absolutely pouring with rain. To be honest with you, it’s been getting me down. Rather down. We’re just not used to this weather even though it has moved in and well and truly over stayed its welcome much of this year. However, I need to be grateful. We are not flooded. We are not being flooded for the second or third time in 12 months. I have a warm dog on my lap who doesn’t mind having the keyboard slapped on top of him and is absolutely gorgeous.
Anyway, I did manage to get out for a drive to Putty Beach about 20 minutes drive away from here. I stopped off at a nursery on the way and bought two rose bushes: a pink Queen Elizabeth rose and a yellow fragrant rose. They’re to represent my mum and dad. They’re still in the land of the living but I guess I’m feeling their absence because we haven’t seen much of them over the last two years since covid came along. I also bought an Australian native called a Golden Gem and a few primulas. When I arrived hom with my stash, our son said: “You’ve bought more plants to kill, have you?” Deary me! Oh son of little faith!
The beach itself was showing the signs of all the heavy rains and flooding. I don’t know what this beach looks like normally but it had a few estuaries running through it, which might not be there normally. There were a lot of fallen trees around and a massive tree floating just off the beach and a few logs rolling around in the surf. There was also a lot of spume in the water. This is the excess foam which whirls up in storms and t’s a bit like foamy whipped cream.
However, what particularly interested me were the various structures made out of sticks which dotted the beach. These were very well constructed and I was very impressed and wondered who’d made them. There was even a cubby house built into the side of one of the estuaries and I just love it. They’d even managed to get a chair and table inside, and the whole set up showed impressive ingenuity and creativity. There was also a well-constructed tent.
Last week, I also went to see Aladdin the Musical at Laycock Street Theatre in Gosford. It was fabulous and a family friend of ours played the Genie and did a fabulous job. She was hilarious. It’s the first time she’s been able to perform in a musical for two years due to covid, which is really rough so she was really excited to perform.
Lastly, I’d like to mention an exhibition coming up at the Beinart Gallery in Melbourne Annie Montgomerie: Fitting In It’s amazing and I encourage you to click through and check out the portrait of her socially awkward creations gathered together as diverse community. I love them, and am feeling very tempted to jump on a plane to check them out.
My apologies if you only like to see pristine postcard views with constant blue skies and happy days. However, I am intrigued by the post-storm environment and how all this heavy rainfall is impacting our local landscape, especially the local beaches which I feel I know like the back of my hand, but don’t really.
All these storms reveal aspects hidden beneath the surface, or just deposit all sorts of flotsam and jetsam from goodness knows where on the beach like the tree skeleton and half -pumpkin I found at Pearl Beach today.
Unfortunately, these swollen rivers also carry away treasured homes, possessions, animals and there’s tragically also been the loss of human life.
There is no mercy.
Or, is there?
For every tale of loss and heartless devastation, there are also miraculous tales of rescues, near misses and the hand of God seemingly raising them directly out of the depths.
Or, perhaps it all just comes down to luck, and a cosmic roll of the dice in this random universe.
Wouldn’t we all like to know. Know for sure I mean. Not just have a copy of the manual.
It reminds me of that great scene towards the end of The Wizard of Oz where Toto exposes the man behind the curtain, and it makes all this cosmic wondering all so simple.
Anyway, I was over in Pearl Beach today to attend a novel-writing workshop with Australian author Graeme Simsion, who wrote The Rosie Project which has subsequently expanded into the Rosie Series. He’s recently put out a new book: The Novel Project, which formed the basis of the workshop. I am going to come back to this in a few days after all the material we went through today has settled, and I’ve also got through our son’s 18th Birthday on Tuesday and cooking a sit down dinner and dessert for 13 people I believe. I had wanted to order pizza, but he who must be obeyed had other ideas.
Before I head off, if you’ve been praying for rain lately, could I just ask that you be a bit more specific about where you’d like the rain to fall, because we’d actually like to see a bit of sunshine. Not all sunshine. Just a bit of balance.
Well, I’d better head off now. The next couple of days are going to be huge, and I’d better redirect my attention to more earthly concerns.
Best wishes and thank you for joining me in Pearl Beach in the rain, especially when you could’ve been out in the sun.
Yesterday afternoon, I stumbled upon Irish author, Michael Harding, while I was browsing through a bookshop in Midleton, Ireland. While you’d obviously expect to find a book in a bookshop, the remarkable thing is that I was there. After all, I was visiting Midleton Bookshop via Google Earth from the comfort of my loungeroom in Umina Beach – just North of Sydney, Australia.
Being a compulsive bibliophile, of course, I had to check out their web site to better appreciate what might be displayed in their front window. The funny thing was, it was like they already knew I was coming. Their home page features a fabulous quote from Katrina Meyer: “A book is a magical thing that lets you travel to far-away places without ever leaving your chair.” As it turns out, it’s not only books. It is also Google Earth.
How typical of me to go all the way to Ireland (even virtually) and find a bookshop?!! Not only that. I managed to find a book I really, really wanted too! The book in question is Michael Harding’s The Cloud Where the Birds Rise, with illustrations by Jacob Stack.
I don’t know how well you know me. Of course, most of you have never been to my house and seen the overcrowded bookshelves, and book piles breeding faster than proverbial rabbits beside my lounge chair (where I currently write), my bed and on my desk overlooking the back garden. If you had been here, you’d probably be screaming at me: “NOOOO Roweeenah! Not another book! You haven’t even read the books you’ve got, and you have more on the way. Have you no self-control?” (Said, of course, as though self-control is the pinnacle of human development, and expanding your mind is a bad thing). You might even say something truly dreadful along the lines of me being crushed to death and buried alive once my teetering book pile finally topples over. Of course, I’ve brought all this disaster on myself. All because I couldn’t say “no!”
However, in my defence, I haven’t ordered the book yet, but who am I kidding? You and I both know the sun’s not going to set today, without me clicking on that irresistible “Buy Now” button.
Meanwhile, during this rather pregnant pause between spotting the book and placing my order, I did make a brief attempt at self-control and tried to see inside the book online. That didn’t work, but I did find a podcast where Alan Keane interviewed Michael Harding on The Artists’ Well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrRYg1hvCh0 Now, I was really hooked, and after enjoying this interview so much, I headed off to absorb Michael Harding’s podcasts (@hardingmichael) and I’ll be lucky to find my way out the front door for the next six months. I’m riveted.
It’s at this point that I finally realize I’ve left my virtual self paused in suspended animation outside Midleton Bookshop. Goodness knows what the proprietors think of having this stranger permanently glued to their front window. Indeed, they’ve probably already had me carted away in the paddy wagon. If I’m lucky, I might just find myself incarcerated down the road from Midleton Workhouse where my 4 x Great Grandmother, Bridget Donovan, ended up during the Great Hunger. She in effect won her golden ticket out of there when she was plucked out of this sea of starving, feverish unfortunates and despatched to Sydney on board the John Knox as one of the Irish Famine Orphan Girls under the Earl Grey Scheme. Indeed, she was even given a trunk of clothing, Bible and necessities to make a decent life for herself on the other side. Chasing Bridget was why I went to Midleton today. I wanted to see where she was from, and walk in her shoes for a bit.
So, I guess this leaves us in suspended animation. Are you familiar with the works (or should I say words and ideas) of Michael Harding? Have you been to Midleton, County Cork, Ireland? Or, perhaps you have some connection to the Irish Famine Orphans who were sent out to Australia? Alternatively, you might just want to say hello and that’s fine too. I’d love to hear from you. Indeed, it would be wonderful to have a cup of tea with you in person, but such is life particularly given the current state of play with covid.
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?
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.
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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
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?
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.
 Ethel Turner, `Three Little Maids, pp 302-303.
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 20 November 1921, page 2
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 11 December 1921, page 2
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 15 January 1922, page 2
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.”
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.
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…
Have you been on any good walks recently or read any book books? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
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.
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:
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 theSun 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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.