Saturday, 30 June 2012

Good Memories

Today would have been my friend Joanne's birthday.  Since she passed away last November she's been on my mind a lot, not that she was ever that far from my thoughts.   

I have a picture on my wall that I bought at the Oklahoma City Arts Festival, probably around 1980.  Joanne and I had spent the day together there, the first time I'd ever been.  The $20-30 I splashed for this lovely picture made from flower petals seemed a lot to me back then.  Ever frugal, and still somewhat newly wed, I wasn't much accustomed to buying things for the house, especially not just because they were pretty. 

I've never ever regretted that purchase.  I still love to look at that picture and it always brings back memories of a brilliant day out with a lovely friend.

I remember another lady from about around time, more an acquaintance than close friend, who had strong opinions and articulated them in such a way that one remembered her views.  She said that it was good to be careful with money, but that spending money to make great memories was a worthwhile investment.  I've always been a bit cautious in applying that maxim, but in this case I'd have to say she was 150% correct.

Do you have mementos that remind you of happy times long past?

Friday, 29 June 2012

Race Day

So now we come to the whole purpose of why we came to Australia when we did this year:  so Bill could do a 10K race.  Crazy, eh?  

This is the Rotary sponsored race that Chris had worked to organise before he became ill.  Jane and Jenny and others staffed the water table. 

No one looks good at the end of a hard race.

Several thousand runners turned out, plus family members.

Some people got more fun jobs than just handing out cups.

There were loads of prizes given out.  Bill didn't get a prize, but he was reasonably content with his race time nevertheless.

When the main business of the race was done, a group of us ladies met up at the cafe near the park, Sous le Soleil.  I was taken with these lovely little bottles grouped in their own little wooden crate and filled with flowers.  Turns out that Belvoir drinks are from the UK; in spite of the fact that these bottles' labels were in French.

This shop had been on Jane's list of things we might do and so I was keen to see the shop inside; she did warn me that the prices were breath-taking and she wasn't wrong.  They wouldn't allow photographs, but you can take a walk around the shop yourself if you like, here and here.

Whether or not I approve of their prices - or their policy about photography - they certain have a way of presenting things beautifully.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Avoca Beach Picture Theatre

There was a day when there were loads of folks at the beach house in Avoca that I just took myself off for some solitude. 

I knew exactly where I wanted to go.

Jane had told me about seeing the preview of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. 

Bill doesn't go see films much, in fact I can tell you exactly which movies we've seen together:  Twister (our first date), The First Wives Club, and the last two Harry Potter films.  

It's no big deal as I'm not that big on paying movie theatre prices, but I knew I'd love anything with Maggie Smith and Judi Dench in it.  What I didn't expect was to fall in love with the theatre itself. 

It was a movie theatre, but also a pub and also an amazing shop. 

Life is not about Waiting for the Storm to Pass...It is about Learning to Dance in the Rain.  (Particularly in one lives in England...)

Even the loos were fun:

Not that I went in the Gents...

I've never seen such great ideas!

On each of the stall doors!

I browsed at length and then went away to buy myself brunch to fill in the time until the next showing. 

Life is not Measured by the number of Breaths we take, but by the Moments that Take our Breath Away.

I had myself some salad, steak and chips at a restaurant overlooking the beach.  Delicious.

My day out proved to be just the R&R I needed, away from the need to socialise, to be polite, to consider others, to do anything other than think my own thoughts in silence. 

Needing occasional solitude is simply part of me, something I can't change about myself, not that I wish to.

However, I was quite excited to drag Bill back to the theatre, after everyone else had returned to Sydney and we had a couple of days to ourselves. 

He loved it, too. 

Who wouldn't?

Monday, 25 June 2012

Crafting with Jane and Jenny

In addition to loving books, my sister-in-law Jane sews wonderfully.  She and Jenny (of The Quilt) are involved with their husbands in Rotary, which of course has many different fund-raising activites.  One of these is a bridge day.  Neither Jane nor Jenny are interested in bridge, but they do like to put on a craft stall and try to sell hand made items to the bridge-players. 

Great apron; shame about the light fixture.
V. bad photography, that!

Jenny came over one day to show us what she was making and to consult about other plans.  Jane modelled her fabulous striped aprons.   She'd also made some really smart looking place mats from lush fabrics and was going to add some braid or other trim to some small square tablecloths.

Jenny showed us her incredible covered hangers. 

She starts with inexpensive store-bought covered hangers, already padded, and then adds her own style of covering with over-the-top embellishments that make the hangers very unique. 

Obviously a work in progress...
I think Jenny has a really good eye for what works.

Wouldn't you find these hangers irresistable?

Jenny also showed us the crochet throw she's making for one of her and Jane's grand-daughters.  All the grand-kids are getting one!

I found this get-together quite inspiring...not that I've had much time since our return to do any crafting, but I'll get there eventually.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Beauchamp Park, Sydney

I never stop being astonished when I trip over something I wasn't seeking, something that ties into one of my obsessions.  The world really does feel like a small place occasionally.

Bill and I walked to the shops one day to pick up a few food items.  We happened onto this lovely little park. 

The names Beauchamp, Lygon or Madresfield probably don't mean much to most folks and I'm sure that a good percent of the world doesn't remember Evelyn Waugh. However, the name Brideshead sort of sticks in the brain I think.  

For those not familiar with these names, a short explanation is: a man named Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) wrote a novel called Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder which drew heavily on the real lives of the Lygon family, whom he met when he was attending Oxford University. The book is renowned for evoking the nostalgia of the interwar period in Oxford, before social changes chipped away at the privileged lifestyle of Britain's nobility. The head of that family, William Lygon (pronounced Liggon), was the 7th Earl Beauchamp (pronounced Beecham)and the ancestral family home was not called Brideshead as in the book, but was Madresfield.   Before being exiled from England for his homosexuality, which was then illegal here, Lord Beauchamp had also been Governor of New South Wales, the Australia state in which Sydney is located.


Sadly, I read that Lygon wasn't a big hit with Australians, owing to a reference he made to the 'birthstain' of their convict heritage.  So, I guess diplomacy wasn't his strong point. 

There was also a Lygon Street in Melbourne. We took a walk out there one of our last mornings and wished we'd done so sooner. Just out of the CBD, it was an oasis of calm. Street cafes lined one side and residents sipped coffee and read the papers under the shade of awnings. A nearby park and flats surrounding all made it look quite appealing. It is apparently a largely Italian sector and I'm sure there would have been some delicious meals to have been enjoyed had we discovered the area sooner.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Books I Read...and Didn't

One of the best things to look forward to when visiting Jane is reading.  She and I like a lot of the same kinds of books.  There are books to explore at both the house in Sydney and several bookcases in the house at Avoca Beach, so it's complete heaven there as well. 

I read a lot on this trip, possibly more than ever before.  I took some notes as I read *these* books as well and may find I have to blog about them.

Fabric Leftovers, by D'Arcy Jean Milne (I've bought this finally!)

Sew Many Bags, by Sally Southern

*Lessons in Letting Go:  Confessions of a Hoarder, by Corinne Grant

*The American Housewife, by Harriet Beecher Stowe (I took the ebook on my computer)

Speed Cleaning:  A spotless house in just 15 minutes a day, by Shannon Lush and Jennifer Fleming  (Jane mentioned that she thought it was nice to at least know the theory...I agree).

*The Brain that Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge

*The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd  (I've read it before, but knew I'd enjoy it again)

The Duchess of Acquitaine:  A novel of Eleanor, by Margaret Ball  (I'm now reading The Seven Ages of Paris, and fitting together puzzle pieces from it into what I know about English history; such fun!)

*The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbary

Caleb's Crossing, by Geraldine Brooks (I grab anything she's written.)

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, by Paul Torday (who happens to live in Northumberland, where there would be pretty good salmon fishing.)

Madonna, Unauthorized, by Christopher P. Anderson

Books I Didn't Read - but probably would have if I'd had the time: 

Chocolat, by Joanne Harris (Pretty sure I've seen the film and/or read the book before.  However, I've since bought her book Blackberry Wine at the local book fair and it's completely wonderful). 

Possession, by A.S. Byatt (having loved the film, I figured I knew the plot of the story, more or less)

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

How to Be Idle, by Tom Hodgkinson (I figure I'm pretty champion at this already, but I'm open to learning new skills in this area.) 

*Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen  (This was also on my computer.  It is a fascinating, if challenging read and I've not got very far.  Having written in a different century, Veblen  uses words to mean different things than I usually understand them to mean, but I'm determined I will go back and finish this.  It explains so much about how everyday things are, between the classes - and between the sexes, but is shocking at the same time.)

Two books I saw at the airport bookstore, but didn't choose to buy, were The Winter Palace:  A novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak and The Captain's Daughter by Leah Fleming.  In looking these up I wasn't sure which Captain's Daughter I wanted.  Fleming's book is about the Titanic, but there is a free ebook by the same title by Alexander Pushkin, would could be more interesting to read alongside the novel about Catherine the Great.  Sort of like visiting the Palace at Holyrood House, home of Mary Queen of Scots, on the same day as the home of John Knox.

Bill did a bit of reading as well, but not nearly as much as I.  He shared some bits from a book of silly sayings which I will now pass on:

"A fairy tale is something that never happened a long time ago."


"The end of the world would mark a turning point in everyone's life."

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Torch

The other big deal around here in Britain besides the Queen's Diamond Jubilee is of course the 2012 Olympics.  Ostensibly in London, I gather various events are scheduled to happen in various other cities which have appropriate athletic facilities.  I've heard bits of stories about stadiums named for their primary builders, say O2 or Norwich Union (names I've just pulled out of a hat), being pressured to change the name of the venue for the Olympics, because those builders aren't big sponsors of the Olympics and so will get undue television coverage.  Aren't politics fun?

Cousin Frank in Glasgow shared a photo of the Olympic Torch passing the end of his street a week ago Friday. 


Various other friends and family have also commented on seeing the Torch. 


Bill's daughter Sarah noticed that the handover 'kiss' (her word) occurred at Asda's (Britain's name for Wal-Mart) near her. 


She said 'It stopped for a cheese burger chaser.'  I'm thinking maybe Asda is a sponsor.

It came down the end of our street as well.  We duly joined the gathering crowd

- well, a thin line of people edging the street.

I have to say it was an amazing non-event for me.  First we got all sorts of police motorcycles, then a bunch of buses with advertising on the sides (Lloyd's TSB really need to have their exhaust checked) and people on them waving.  Then came some more buses with 'London 2012' on them and more waving passengers. 

Finally, we got our Torch carrier (in the white suit) and his entourage (in grey).   There were runners on the pavement trying to follow the whole thing.  The Torch carrier laughed and said they should have trained more.

And then it was gone...

As we dispersed, various people commented on the cost of London's Metropolitan Police following the torch the length and breadth of the country and of all those buses to transport the thousands of torch bearers. 

I still remember way back when the Mayor of Denver said they were declining to place a bid for the Olympics, as it wasn't really in the best interests of the city.  I know, I'm a wet blanket here. 

On a lighter note, one of Bill's running friends was disappointed at not being chosen as a Torch bearer and appalled to find that some of those chosen were selling their white suits on eBay.   As a gentle form of protest, Paul did this Saturday's parkrun dressed as an Olympic Torch Bearer.

The sickening thing is, he still managed to do the 5K race in about 21 minutes, even wearing sandals!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Jane's 80th Birthday Lesson

Jane will love this title when she reads it!  No, she isn't anywhere near 80 years old.  However, on the day The Quilt was presented, I stayed to watch as she gave her ESL (English as a Second Language) lesson.   I thought it was a clever lesson in that it discussed a current event and also told her students something about herself and her homeland.

She asked if they knew what 80th 'birthday' was approaching.  Several of them knew that the 80th anniversary of the completion of the Sydney Harbour Bridge was around the corner.  Jane showed them a photo from the local newpaper.

Sydney Harbour Bridge (1932)
Then she showed a photo from the internet and asked them what it was - they all answered, 'Sydney Harbour Bridge'.  However, it was not.  It was the Tyne Bridge, located in her home town, built around the same time as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but completed a few years earlier.  She went on to explain that Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England was where she grew up.

Tyne Bridge, Newcastle (1928)
Now I always believed that the Tyne Bridge was sort of a trial run for the much larger Sydney bridge, but it turns out that they were both designed based on the even earlier Hell Gate Bridge in New York.

Hell Gate Bridge, New York (1916)

If one starts reading about 'through arch bridges' it turns out there is an even older one in Vermont, simply called Arch Bridge.  However, while this was quite an innovation in the US at the time, the through arch is an improvement on a Roman design.  The Romans built Newcastle's first bridge, called Pons Aelius, near the site of the present Tyne Bridge in about 122.

Getting completely carried away with through arch bridges, it turns out that Sydney Harbour is not the largest either.  That distinction is currently held by the Lupu Bridge in Shanghai.

I'm pretty sure Jane didn't get quite this carried away in her lesson, but I must admit that I slipped out before I had to talk English with her students as I figured my American accent would just confuse them.

Arch Bridge, between Vermont and New Hampshire (1905)

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Quilt

Right, we've left Melbourne (12 hours on the train again).  This time behind two very energetic boys.  Watching the two parents keep them entertained and out of trouble wore me out.  There is no doubt that good parenting takes effort. 

We came back to Sydney to find Chris home from hospital and things moving back to the usual patterns. There were still a lot of things going on, but that is what passes for normal in that household.

Jane is the local coordinator for ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, which are taught at her church.  The classes are attended by all sorts of Asian women from China, Korea, Japan, etc.  Jane says that some of these ladies are in Sydney because of their husbands' work, some are widowed, some have elderly husbands.  In a few cases these women are quite isolated owing to the language barrier and also to the cultural expectation that they stay home and tend the house. 

ESL classes aid not just in learning the new language but also brings together expatriot women from the various countries on a social level, which they enjoy enormously.  Interestingly, given the general respect for education in many Asian cultures, attending an English class is a valid, creditable reason for escaping from the house putting aside domestic duties to enjoy a bit of social contact improve their language skills.  Jane says some of the regular attenders make little effort to learn English, but they enjoy the morning out.

Remember me mentioning the flood in the basement?  Those are the quilt
pieces marooned over there on the pool table.

As an added interest for the ladies, they have started having monthly craft lessons and of course these also add to the range of subjects on which to practice speaking English.   Jane's close friend, Jenny (who happens to be the mother-in-law of Jane's younger son), helps with the craft classes; as does the mother-in-law of Jane's eldest son.  I'm thinking there ought to be a better word for 'other-mother-in-law', particularly when they are a close knit group like this.  As both sons have children, perhaps they are 'grandmothers-in-law'?

Before I had the idea of the spreadsheet...

One of the crafting projects that has been a huge hit with the ESL ladies was learning to knit and being given the assignment of knitting 10" squares to be put together for a blanket destined to go to a hospital in Tanzania that specialises in surgical correction of fistulas.

All stitched up!

Tanzanian women often walk several days to reach the hospital.  [Which puts a whole other level of thinking into the idea of 'access to medical care'.]  In this particular hospital, following their surgery, each woman leaves with a new dress and a knitted blanket.  I had heard the term 'fistula' but never understood what it was.  You can read more about obstetric fistulas here.

The ladies loved finding 'their' squares!
The ESL ladies really enjoyed knitting the squares and Jane had stacks of them on her sewing table waiting to be put together.  The blanket was to be presented to the representatives of the charity in a couple of weeks' time on a Thursday at the ESL class. 

I think they were rightfully proud of what they made.

Unfortunately, these being mostly novice knitters, very few of the squares were actually 10 inches by 10 inches.  When Chris landed in hospital, I could see that sewing together this blanket was going to be quite low on Jane's list of priorities.  I love hand stitching, so I thought I might make myself useful here.  I started by measuring and labelling each of the squares and making a spreadsheet of the sizes.  This helped me group the squares by width and to come up with a plan that would make assembling the quilt easier and to reach the aim of a 60" x 80" quilt - just the size to cover a double bed.

Jenny, Jane and I put together each of the six columns together in an afternoon and started sewing the columns together.  I finished sewing the columns together over the next few afternoons and it was ready just in time for presentation.  I got enormous satisfaction from contributing to this:  thinking of how colourful and cheery the blanket would be to the African woman recovering from surgery, that the ESL ladies would feel proud of what they had accomplished, that I was lightening Jane's load of worries just slightly.  I happened to stumble upon this website just today and I'm thinking I'll look into this further.

I was intrigued by the little 'waffle cookies'.

On presentation day, Jenny brought a whole bag of adorable girls' skirts she'd made from remnants; they were going to Africa as well. 

Jane showing us one of the skirts Jenny made.

I enjoyed helping set up the classroom and Jane told me the ESL ladies liked having their photo taken, so I took loads!   Everyone there was really warm and friendly and some of the Asian ladies were lovely and elegant.  Jane recently wrote that she already has enough squares to make another blanket.   We were brain-storming before we left about possible sources of free yarn; I guess they cracked that one!

Do you do any sort of charity work that gives you satisfaction?