Ku-ring-gai. All in the family

1Many, many years ago I grew up in Gordon where I attended the Infants and Public Schools through grades K to 6. The classroom for 6A in the year 1955 is currently where the Ku-ring-gai Historical Society has its office and library. Clearly still a place of learning.  Our family lived on Mt. William St., where Stony Creek ran through the backyard providing concealed access for young boys to the deep lush valley under the old wooden pedestrian suspension bridge at the end of the road. Does this photo bring back memories?

My mother was born, raised, and married in Lindfield. Her childhood home was in Middle Harbour Rd. and St. David’s Presbyterian up on the highway was the marriage church. For our family this part of the North Shore was where we belonged. Our home was here, our relatives were here, our schools, church and shops were here. This was the fiefdom of our secure little world.

A big part of life at home involved gardening. We had a big back yard providing lots of space for Mum and Dad’s passion. Among all the flowers, carnations and dahlias were the ones I remember best. They were planted in a special area near the shade of a large, wonderfully smelling mock-orange tree whose scent still permeates my memories.

After the three sons finished High School our parents moved to a flat in Roseville for a while before retiring to the Blue Mountains. Their home there became a showplace for hundreds of azaleas, rhododendrons, and maiden hair ferns. With her green thumb, mother could solve anyone’s gardening problems, and was consulted by many with shrub and flower problems.

So why am I telling you this? Because in pursuing my hobby of genealogical research I recently came across an ancestor who had a similar love of gardens. This particular Ku-ring-gai resident was quite conspicuous in his times, and very public in his commitments. The irony was that no-one in our modern family appreciated his work while he was alive.

I’d flown across the Pacific from my home in Seattle with the intention of tracing my great great grandfather’s career as a teacher in the NSW countryside. Joseph Taylor and his wife Emma had arrived in Sydney from London as free settlers in 1846. Taylor is my father’s mother’s maiden name. Joseph had transitioned well from his city-boy background to rural teacher. With successful stints behind him at the new National schools in Camden, and Gosforth, his next appointment was as schoolmaster in Mulbring, where I was now anxious to learn more.

Gosforth, north of Maitland, once was a thriving community, but thanks to repeated flooding of the Hunter River, it exists these days only as a rural outpost.   And Mulbring, a village south of Maitland, is hardly much larger now than it was 150 years ago. Originally, in the late 19th century, it was a stopping place for travellers going to and from Sydney to the Maitland and Newcastle areas. Today, as then, the town lies peacefully in the shadow of Mt. Sugarloaf.

It was a Sunday when I managed to reach the little public school nestled among a grove of ancient Eucalypts. I wandered through the rear playgrounds to the main building wondering what I’d find. No-one was around but I peered in every window trying to get a flavour of long ago. Lo and behold, at the front of the administration building, a hallway ran past the main window, and almost directly opposite was a board with multiple columns recording in historical order the names of ‘Teachers in Charge’ and ‘School Captains’. 2

There, right in front of me, third from the top, was Joseph Taylor’s name and the dates he was headmaster – June 1855 to November 1862!

What an amazing find, and what an incredible thrill, to see his name pop up ‘in lights’ so to speak. It was a shock, completely unexpected, but…, at the same time, wonderfully welcome.

In an instant I was transformed into a pupil there one hundred and sixty years earlier, nervously trudging up to the principal’s office to enroll for school. I could imagine the floorboards creaking and the stern look on the master’s face as he asked where I was from and how old I was. My feelings were real, as I suddenly realized I was in touch with my great great grandfather. I was mesmerized to think I now trod where he had trodden and that his name was recorded for posterity. Thousands of pupils over the years had read the name of my ancestor. How awesome was that!

Further research revealed that the previous head teacher, John Oakes, had been dismissed for incompetence, and it had taken nearly a year to find Joseph as his replacement. Oakes, angry and resentful, made life miserable for Joseph and his family, so they eventually left. But not before Emma had brought two more sons into the world, Eugene in October 1858, and Victor in May 1861, children numbered six and seven in the Taylor brood.

Joseph moved on to teaching assignments in Bendolba, and Seaham, from where he eventually retired. The whole family, save for a daughter who married in Seaham, moved to Ashfield in Sydney. The Taylor boys had always been fascinated by the railways, and both Victor and Eugene eventually found jobs with them. Eugene married in 1896, living first in Newtown close to the city hub. At headquarters he worked hard, progressing steadily up through the ranks.  3

His first major corporate commitment and personal family sacrifice came when he was offered the position of stationmaster at Berry. Berry was 87 miles south of the Sydney home and relatives, and Eugene’s wife Louisa was pregnant with their second child. Berry was the second last stop before Bomaderry, near Nowra, on the Illawarra line. One major benefit was the existence of a stationmaster’s weatherboard residence with a simple brick chimney servicing the kitchen. It stood in a pretty setting behind the station1.

As expected, Eugene did well in his position. So well in fact that in 1903 he was awarded the prestigious post of stationmaster at Killara, an emerging, highly desirable Sydney suburb. Killara was an Aboriginal word meaning “Permanent” or “Always there”. Ten years earlier the train line from Hornsby to St. Leonards had been extended all the way to Milson’s Point at the harbour’s edge. Train passenger numbers were increasing weekly with an average of 103 passengers boarding the 8:10am fast train from Killara by 19052.   It traveled non-stop to the end of the line where its arrival coordinated with the departure of the steam ferry crossing to Dawes Point. The ferry transported horse-drawn vehicles as well as foot passengers. Trams met passengers on the south shore whisking them to their office desks between 8:45am and 9:30am in the city proper.

With only a single train track operating on the North Shore line, passengers south of Killara, to their chagrin, had to travel on earlier or later morning services. In those days Milson’s Point station was actually located approximately where one of the Harbour Bridge pylons sits today. When construction started on the bridge in 1924 the station was moved to Lavender Bay, just north of Luna Park.

There was no stationmaster’s residence at Killara of course but Eugene and his family lived in Marian St. on the Lindfield-Killara border until 1910.

Several unusual incidents occurred during Eugene’s reign. In May 1904 a passenger on the 5:52pm stepped out of the train on the wrong side. Perhaps a tough day at the office and liquid refreshments had taken their toll? In any event a lookout was kept on the next train to Milson’s Point, and a man was discovered lying by the line. He was treated at North Sydney Hospital for injuries to one of his shoulders3.

Much later, in March 1909, about 50 caddies congregated at the station as members of the prestigious Killara Golf Club arrived on their way to the links.   The caddies were on strike ! They’d gathered to tell the members that they would have to carry their own clubs unless the caddies’ allowance was raised 50% from a shilling to eighteen pence per round4. One can only imagine the mayhem that would result were one of today’s unions to ask for a 50% increase in pay !

The clearing of land was a constant need as residential demand for space grew and the North Shore became increasingly attractive as a place to live. Train stations were often surrounded by shopping centres but even if not so, they tended to become community havens, providing the primary source of transportation before motor cars became more prevalent.  Every resident in a suburb knew the shortest route between his house and the train station.

It was no surprise that common space at the stations could be used for public displays. Even of vulgar machinery.   In June 1908 such a demonstration took place when a Mr. Hinds showed how his incredible invention, the ‘improved’ Bunyip5, could efficiently remove stumps left by fallen trees.   Good for clearing forests apparently, if not for finding the mythical Australian creature after which the machine was named. It’s not known how many machines Mr. Hinds sold that day.4

An indication of the prosperity, social consciousness, and innovative interests of the high level society patrons living at Killara was evidenced when the local Progress Association decided to beautify the station premises. Residents donated ornamental trees and shrubs including rose trees, camellias, azaleas, and hibiscus to plant in a prepared space6. Eugene helped manage an array of gardeners sent by the local patrons to organize the beautification project.

Years later under Eugene’s care the station won second prize in the station garden competition, beaten by Teralba in the Newcastle region7, but ahead of Wingello down south.

So clearly, over decades across disparate branches of the extended family tree, gardening was a common interest. How little I knew about my Ku-ring-gai relatives at the time I was growing up in the district. But how glad I am to learn even at this late date of shared interests.

It’s amazing what a little research can reveal…

In this case, it warms my heart to have learned that a distant relative served the local community, and helped start a program of beauty that to this day still makes Killara one of my favorite stations.

Well done Eugene !

Unfortunately, Eugene died in 1923. But from 1949 to 1958 we lived in Gordon and father caught the train daily past Killara station to Town Hall. He worked at Angus & Robertson as a bookseller in the heyday of the firm. My turn to travel past Eugene’s work place came when I went to North Sydney Boys’ High School.

One thing my parents and Eugene had in common however was a love of gardening. In fact mother ended up appointed as a lifetime member of the Wentworth Falls Garden Club when she and father retired up the Mountains. Maybe Eugene’s influence rubbed off somehow anyway.

5_______________________________________________________

Footnotes

  1. http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=4801132
  2. The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 17 October, 1905, p4.
  3. The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 17 May, 1904, p2.
  4. The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 30 March, 1909, p6.
  5. Sunday Times, Sunday 21 June, 1908, p2.
  6. The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 14 August, 1905, p1.
  7. Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners’ Advocate, Tuesday 10 November, 1908, p4.

My mother would have been 100 today

Mum

Mum – Elizabeth Margaret Stewart Lawrence, born June 8, 1916,

Willoughby, NSW, Australia. Fondly known as Bet or Betty.

Mum would have been 100 today, June 8, 2016

Warren Dent

A Remembrance

When Betty Lawrence was only 6 months old, her mother, Nellie, started acting strangely. Nellie spent a lot of time reading books by the popular English author, Mary Corelli, who wrote morbid and dark stories about desperate human affairs, horrific murders, super natural beings, reincarnation, and perceived fallacies of love and Christianity. Markedly influenced by the author’s stories, Nellie become obsessed with her own past sins, claiming God would punish her unless she atoned. Sadly, her mind deteriorated as time progressed and eventually she was committed to an insane asylum. Betty was only 13 months old at the time her mother was taken away. Worse, Nellie never recovered from her illness, and died in hospital April 1918, 22 months after Betty had been born.

One wonders how Betty fared in the second 6 months of her life and beyond as Nellie’s mind wove its tormented path to self-destruction, and her eventual death. Who taught Betty to walk, who heard her first words? Her father? Perhaps. But more likely her elder sister and brother and the various housekeepers who were hired to keep up home and appearances in Nellie’s absence.

Betty’s father, David, was a busy entrepreneur with a highly successful engraving business in the heart of Sydney. His spare time was heavily devoted to the hobby of golf, for he was a founding player member of the prestigious club in the suburb of Killara, where he won many tournaments.

For the four years following her mother’s death, Betty grew torturously under the guidance of a little-caring father and a score of nannies. There were no relatives locally to help out, for David and Nellie had emigrated from Scotland in 1910. The home, newly bought in Lindfield, was markedly absent of family love.

Twice, before she was 4 years old, David tried to have Betty adopted. When that failed he sent her away to boarding school. Looking after children was not something of interest to him. When he remarried in 1922 he saddled his new wife with the charge of mothering the three children so he could spend all his free time at his golf game. Poor Ruth, the second wife, previously divorced, had no experience raising young children.

The family became exemplarily dysfunctional.

*           *           *

Given the background of her early childhood, it’s no wonder that Mum grew into a woman with a resolution to maximize what life offered her. She developed an intense drive to succeed, bettering herself at every opportunity.  At the same time, hidden deep in her soul was a highly understandable burning need to be loved.

Leaving school at age 14 she helped her father as errand-girl in his city business, then became an assistant in a gift shop where she learned marketing skills and the ins and outs of the retail industry. Her father taught her golf, at which she became quite adept. Her athleticism matched that of the man she chose to marry, Ron Dent, as for four years of courtship they would go hiking and camping together in the Blue Mountains and the south coast. They both had matching loves for the bush and the seaside. In later years those interests would dominate their selection of family vacation spots. Austinmer and Blackheath became places we three boys loved to visit in school holidays.

Ron and Betty were a happy pair of young newly-weds. Dad was on the short side, denied the option to join fighting forces in WWII. However, he had strong organizational skills, managing 400 women in the supplies division at Mascot airport, helping build Beaufort bombers there.

Where Mum was naturally gregarious and out-going, Dad was conservative and relatively reserved, but had a great sense of humour. Both were good-looking, and well appreciated as a couple by the friends they made. After the war, Dad worked at a bookmaker company for nearly thirty years, rising to lead one of the operational divisions. He had accounting skills, but turned down chances to have greater leadership roles, preferring to support the creative streak in Betty who pursued different opportunities in the retail sector, culminating in her own highly successful gift shop half-a-block from Circular Quay.

Mum’s gift shop was her pride and joy. She worked hard to build her clientele, and by any measure the shop was amazingly successful. The income generated allowed her and Ron to buy their first house at Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains. A goal well achieved, for the pair had paid rent for 30 years. We boys were thrilled that they finally had a home of their own.

*           *           *

Given her birthdate, Mum exhibited many of the characteristics often assigned to those born under the Gemini sign of the Zodiac. She was independent, incredibly energetic, loved to talk, learned quickly, focused on relationships, and could be gentle and affectionate. At the same time, as a Gemini twin, on odd occasions she could behave in unexpected ways. Change was not a problem for Mum. She handled it with aplomb. But it could surprise the rest of us. Perhaps, having learnt implicitly from her father, she could be a downright snob. Many times when I was a youngster she exhorted me to “be a cut above the others.” It was like a mantra for survival. Yet, contrarily, she was the only woman on our street who would empathize and visit for hours with a neighbour whose husband was in jail for embezzlement. For years I had trouble reconciling the two seemingly contrary facets of her make-up.

Her need for love and recognition was revealed in many different ways. There were times when she was making a point to a friend that she seemed to manipulate the conversation to ensure she’d be thanked at the end. Her advice wasn’t always appropriate but she thought it was. Humility was not a strong trait. When someone she cared for didn’t reciprocate, she became terrier-like, stressed, tugging at possible sources of discord, relentless in pursuit of what went wrong. Late in life when asked how she enjoyed Christmas, her initial response was to tell me how many cards she’d received, rather than information on any gifts.

Both Mum and Dad were keen gardeners. In retirement they joined the Wentworth Falls Garden Club, and to Mum’s great delight she was appointed as a Life Member. She was the person members sought for advice on how to solve their specific plant problems. At club meetings she was in high demand, but again when asked how she enjoyed a particular meeting she would reply with the number of queries she had solved. The problems themselves weren’t of interest, the number of them was.

*           *           *

We all have our foibles, and many of Mum’s clearly were the result of the dysfunctional upbringing in her infant years. It’s amazing to me how well she turned out. I give her enormous credit for her survival and self-improvement instincts. She pulled herself up by her bootstraps and turned into a beautiful, loving, caring mother and wife. She was my biggest confidant, always there in the few times of uncertainty or self-doubt. Even as an adult I would sit by her feet and she’d massage my scalp. It was a unique characteristic of our special relationship.

Mum lived to the ripe old age of 92. In her early 80s she happily flew to the United States to visit with my family here. Always interested in new experiences, the fun-loving little girl in her would come out as she eagerly flew in small float planes, explored massive supermarkets and nurseries, or went on the rides at DisneyWorld. This was a woman who lived life to its fullest. Her aches and pains were simply there to be overcome.

I adored my Mum, loved her unconditionally. When I first moved to the United States from Australia, I missed her more than anyone else.

I still do 50 years later.

 

An Australian in America on July 4

I found this letter on foxnews.com.  At a time when many in the USA feel Obama is weakening our position and reputation in the world I can’t resist publicising another Aussie letter writer’s message.  There is much in here that represents the reasons I stay living here.

Letter from an Australian to America:                                              Here’s why I love you, USA

By Nick Adams

Published July 03, 2015

 

It’s December 1985 in Sydney, Australia. Two parents are at wits’ end. Something is not right with their 16-month-old child. For months, they have visited doctor after doctor. No one can tell them what is wrong. On the night before Christmas Eve, with their child more unsettled than unusual, they head for the emergency room at Children’s Hospital.

The ward is nearly deserted, but there is one overnight doctor – a young man with a smiling face and an accent. As he looks the child over, the smile evaporates: “I think your son has neuroblastoma. Get him in for tests first thing in the morning.” Next day, the parents’ worst fears are confirmed. It is Stage IV neuroblastoma, a rare type of childhood cancer.

The parents were mine. The child was me. The doctor, it turned out, was an American.

The cause of neuroblastoma remains unknown. Only 1 in 100,000 children get it. Notoriously difficult to diagnose, the tumor has usually spread by the time it is. At Stage IV, an infant has just a 5 percent chance of life. For three years, I underwent chemotherapy, radiotherapy and an operation.

In 5,000 years of recorded human history, there has been no nation even resembling the United States. The American model has offered, and continues to offer, a greater chance for dignity, hope and happiness for more people than any other system.

Through the healing hands of God, the master physician, I defied the odds and lived. The instincts of the American doctor, fresh out of college, only in Australia for an internship, just in time, were crucial. So I haven’t only studied American exceptionalism. I’ve lived it. In fact, I’m alive because of it.

American exceptionalism is often derided as a phrase of partisan polemics, or worse still, a mere hypothesis, or even a myth. But it is an incontrovertible reality, however unwelcome or unpalatable this might be to those whose ears are attuned to a different siren.

In 5,000 years of recorded human history, there has been no nation even resembling the United States. The American model has offered, and continues to offer, a greater chance for dignity, hope and happiness for more people than any other system.

As Margaret Thatcher, the British prime minister, put it: “Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy.” Lady Thatcher was right. The philosophy is one of individual liberty, free-market opportunity and belief that it’s all a gift from God. America is the best idea the world has ever had, the greatest value system ever devised.

What are these values that make America exceptional?  Individualism, not collectivism. Patriotism, not relativism. Optimism, not pessimism. Limited government, not the nanny state.

God, not Caesar. Faith, not secularism. E pluribus Unum, not multiculturalism. Life, not death. Equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. Goodness, not moral equivalence.

America is about being bold, not bland. Brave, not meek. Striving for greatness, not mediocrity.

Tellingly, all of these values are aligned with what today is called a conservative outlook. On every single count, traditional America both viscerally and ideologically sides with conservatism.

America thus represents the greatest impediment to leftist aims, and it becomes the prime target of the progressive movement in all its manifestations. It is easy to love America simply for the enemies she makes.

American success – by design, not accident – is the most significant refutation of leftist ideals. That’s because America has fostered a society that allows its citizens the widest latitude for creativity and innovation. It rewards success without government approvals and bureaucratic interference. It embraces religious faith, aspiration and risk.

As a result, the people of America have been the most enterprising, market-oriented, individualistic and averse to taxation and regulation that have ever walked the earth.

America has also shown uncommon valor against the sword of tyranny. She has frosted the neighborhoods of tyranny and oppression, by freezing the sweat and chilling the bones of men harboring such aspirations. From the beaches of Normandy to the sands of Iraq, America has spread more freedom and fought more evil than any other country, expending enormous treasure.

Put simply, the world is a better place for America being in it. This is not to say America is perfect. She’s not. But she is the best thing we have.

People still cross oceans to get to this country. They are as willing as ever to empty their life savings to get to America, legally or illegally. They are as prepared as ever to sell the shirt on their back just to feel the American winds of freedom and opportunity. Nowhere else can so many come with nothing and achieve anything.

So I’m convinced that an American renaissance is not as distant, or as impossible, as many speculate. But neither will it roll in on the wheels of inevitability. We must revitalize an informed patriotism across the land.

We must recover a common recognition that the principles of freedom and responsibility found in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are in every American’s self-interest, irrespective of identity politics. This must become again, as it once was, the lens in which all Americans view cultural choices, political candidates and public policy.

Saving America requires bringing intellectual ammunition to the battle of ideas. Too many people have forgotten or never learned what makes America exceptional – and you cannot advocate what you cannot articulate.

Since almost losing my life before it began, I have firmly believed God saved my life for a particular purpose.

Is it a coincidence that I have been drawn to the United States for as long as I can remember? Is it chance that it was an American doctor who diagnosed what others had been unable to do? Is it accidental that the dreams in my heart all involve America? As a man of faith, I don’t believe so.

Today, at age 30, I proudly call myself an Australian by birth, a Texan by honorary appointment (thank you, Rick Perry) and an American by choice. I love America because it is confident, competitive, courageous, faithful, idealistic, innovative, inspirational, charitable and optimistic. It is everything as a nation that I wish to be as a person. That’s why I am devoted to helping achieve an American renaissance.

After freedom, inspiration is America’s greatest export. To me, as it was to Churchill, America is the hope that banishes all hopelessness. As Americans, you should never be intimidated into mediocrity or cramped into submission. You’ve been given so much more. For the sake of the world, you must remain the dream-makers and the dream-keepers.

 

Test

A holder for articles to come

New genealogical and mystery stories

Genealogy: I was doing a little reminiscing over the weekend and a new thought struck me about exposing some real-life genealogical experiences.    Story time !!!!   I’ve come up with three stories of real instances that have affected my life and disposition.  I’ve spent hours, days, weeks, even months tracing down my ancestors and have lots of copies of birth, marriage and death certificates outlining the progress of the family tree, its branches and leaves that fell.  As have thousands of other people around the world.  Like some of them I’ve also found headstones and residences of past family members.  But I’ve been extra fortunate in managing to encounter a couple of other ‘realism’ pieces of true family history.  I thought folk might enjoy stories about them.  See the three under Blogs-Stories

Romantic Mysteries:  I’ve also added two new mysteries.  They have a travel and romance flavor.  You’ll find them under Books – Short stories.  Enjoy.

Update – Jun 29 2011

Patio Deck 1

Patio Deck 2

On June 4th the sun finally broke through with an attendant temperature move upwards.  It got to 75 degrees – whoopee  – and we got to fixing up our little deck area with hanging baskets, deck furniture and new plants in the flower pots.  See pics.  I should say that Gail did most of the work while I worked on trying to fix her PC.  If you work at Microsoft, then in the eyes of others you know everything there is to know about PCs, mail systems, application programs, smart phones, operating systems etc etc.  Hate to tell you – it isn’t true. There are some areas I struggle with – especially connectivity between PCs and phones.  And of course Gail picked a non-windows phone (we live in a home democracy – she chooses her computer equipment, I choose my wine preferences). And I simply have not kept up with Facebook, Twitter and social media in general.  For business Gail needs some of these.  There are experts around and Gail has used some of them to set up her social networks – to advantage I might add. But that doesn’t mean I know how to fix things when something doesn’t work right.  And I don’t have a lot of time to spend trying to figure things out. Or probably I should say I don’t give that a priority.  Sometimes I even put myself first – as in writing my novel.  Have had a little more time available recently as my travel schedule has eased back. But of all things to happen – it seems as if I’ve picked up pneumonia again.  As if my January session wasn’t enough.  I must be more susceptible to the bugs at the moment.  Last visit to the doc he put me on a nebulizer (machine that blows a vaporized stream of medication into your throat to penetrate the lungs better). But I’m still coughing so we’ll see what he says next week…

On the good side of medical town (hey health news becomes a more common topic as you get older so tolerate me here) my 3 month cardio pacemaker check was normal. As the nurse said – Warren your graphs are boring,  just how we like them.  I rarely think about my pacemaker – even when playing tennis.  It just does its thing.  Amazing technology.    And my 3 month PSA score is 0.43.  Up from last time at 0.36, but no-one is excited in any way – looks stable.  So a year after the radiation seeding procedure it looks like things are on track.  I see that doc next week as well – maybe I’ll go to 6 monthly checks….    And Gail – well she just chugs along without any new major medical deals at all thank heavens.  Asthma is an issue, but drugs are helping control things.  Her big issues are oral. Again technology has been incredible in getting her teeth where they need to be.  More to go but again, under control….  Ok, two last medical bits. I invested in new hearing aids since back under Microsoft supported health benefits.  Latest technology out of Switzerland – boy what a difference.  Great help in meetings at work and Gail is shouting less at home. And my annual physical found lowered cholesterol levels and nothing of any major concern to the GP.  An improving picture (save for pneumonia) all round.

Something I have been enjoying more and more lately is writing, as I mentioned in my previous update.   I go to a writing class each Thursday night I’m in town. We do little exercises that challenge creativity and expression and give input and feedback to one another (small group – 5 to 6 usually).   I love learning how differently people respond to a common topic or theme.  My little old brain has always steered more closely to the analytical side of things and this class brings out the right-brain material.   Hard work sometimes.  For example the other night we were given the following phrase  “We take your world from black and white….” and asked to spend 5 minutes extending it.  I think it’s the first time in 2 months that I came up empty.   Others struggled, but I was the only one who opted out.   There was another exercise however where my contribution made the others laugh out loud.  You can read it on my website at http://www.warrend.com/2011/06/happened-room-a-writing-exercise/ .  I also wrote a story about an unusual act that some folk thought pretty nice.  It’s at http://www.warrend.com/2011/06/unusual-nice-today/

.  BTW at the right hand top of my pages there is an orange RSS feed you can use to get automatic notifications of new blog entries – such as this update for example.  Go on – you can always set up a rule in your email client to disregard arrivals in future… J

 

One of my classmates is also writing a novel and I’ve been asked to read and review it.  I feel so privileged.  It’s set in modern times and of a totally different nature to mine, so we’re both having fun helping each other.   And I’m also reading Jean M. Auel’s sixth book – “Land of the Painted Caves”.   She has such a sensitive command of the language, describing gently and clearly scenes that pull you in without realizing it.  I love her writing and imagination..  This is the first time I’ve tried reading using a Nook. Gail has been converted for ages and has a colour version.  I inherited her old black & white one, but on Father’s day (June 19) she bought me a colour one.   Internet access, touch-screen, other technology upgrades.  Pretty impressive.   Karin sent a text message and Minissa left a voicemail on my cell phone – she’s yet to ever call on our home line. Never hear from Arlene on Father’s Day or birthday, and of course Rani is not talking to me.  Was a nice lazy day at home where I spent a lot of time writing on my novel.   I find myself still doing research as I write – e.g. what significant events happened in NSW in 1845, what ships travelled between London and Sydney that may have brought Eliza’s brother out.   Some I’ve done before but as the Trove database at the National Library keeps expanding I go back and check whether anything new has turned up. I did find two new notices of the death of one of Eliza’s children.

 

Service Award 1

Service Award 2

 

Turns out I have now officially served 15 years at Microsoft.  I received a lovely crystal sculpture – pictures attached.  Stands about 12” tall, 5” wide and 1 ½” deep.  When the sun shines on it it’s quite attractive as you can see.  In the third week of June I received a rare uplifting story.  An old girlfriend from Adelaide, Liddie Davies, had died in Sydney at the start of the year from a brain tumor.  After years of mental illness at age 60, finally on incredibly helpful drugs,  she had gone back to school to get a nursing degree.  Never quite completed it, but the school has decided to award her the degree posthumously.  So nice to hear of such a positive act of recognition these days when the news tends to be so full of negatives.

 

On the last full weekend of the month I had business in Detroit, and afterwards drove to Cleveland to see Arlene and Myka.  Myka turns two mid August and is an absolute darling.  Took a while to get used to ‘Grandpa” as expected, but we ended up having a great time together.  Took a bunch of photos and videos – 4 images attached. Such an intelligent, happy little girl.  Arlene has done a excellent job mothering her. 

And so we head for our July 4th weekend.  To Americans at large it’s a great summer holiday starting point.  To me it’s Wimbledon Finals.  Very interesting on the women’s side this year especially….  Wonder if Maria can make it happen…

Ah well, I’ve given her all my tips on how to play, she just has to go out and execute now…   J

 

 

Myka 1

Myka 2

Myka 3
Myka 4
 
 
 
 
 

Update – May 30 2011



Hi All:

 It’s  Memorial Day weekend in the States and Gail and I are enjoying a catch-up weekend.  Actually I’m  a bit annoyed as early Saturday morning I woke up with a sore throat and cold. No hint of anything Friday night. Wondering who I kissed during the week that gave me a bug.  See if I kiss them again…

The weather is kind of yukky with temperatures hovering around 60 or 65 when it should be 75. At least the rhododendrons have come out and are a gorgeous sight around our condo area.  We’ve bought hanging baskets which are super colorful and have hung them around the deck. The summer outdoor furniture is out and all we need now is summer heat. This has been one of the coldest, wettest springs on record in these parts. Not that we should be complaining.  At least we haven’t had tornadoes in this area.  What terrible devastation they have caused this year – and their season isn’t over yet.  There’s still 100 people unaccounted for in Joplin, Missouri and 142 dead.  The pictures of that town look like an alien landscape…  I keep wondering how can they not find 100 people still….

Earlier this month Gail and I traveled to Gouveneur in upstate New York to spend time with her Dad, whom we haven’t seen since his third wife died two months ago. He was happy to see us and we were pleased to find him in good spirits and more mentally alert than what we expected given the stroke and heart attack he suffered at the start of the year.  A rewarding trip all round.   Two weeks later we  used a 4 day weekend to visit Karin and Minissa in Salt Lake City and Indianapolis respectively to finally get to meet our two latest grandchildren, Anna and Tyler.  We had a great time and were happy to put real people into the pictures we’d seen before.  Anna at 11 months is a smiler of the first order and Tyler at 10 months never sits still.  A couple of pictures are attached.  To top off our interaction with grandchildren a week later Arlene sent us some photos of Myka – now walking as you can see . What a bevy of cuties we’re related to….

Gail’s business is picking up dramatically.  She has revamped her website completely and is using all the social networking links to advantage.  You can easily find her and Provanti Designs on Facebook with her website at www.provantidesigns.com.  She has a new mobile Android phone with amazing applications and links to her various connection points. She even has a video talking about her new business niche that has been well received. http://northwestrealestateforum.com/shows/.    If we’re lucky we get to cross paths at dinner time although that’s often when she meets with new clients.  If things keep going the way they are at the moment we’re going to have to get a larger abode to handle all the samples she keeps around.

 

While the weather is poor today there are some positives.  We can watch the Indianapolis 500 on TV- somewhat special as it is the 100th running of the race, and more entertaining is the French Open.  Can anyone beat Novak Djokovic, and who will come through on the women’s side?  Poor Sammy Stosur and Kim Clijsters are out.  Can Maria stave off some of the Eastern European youngsters with unpronounceable last names…?  Drama on the orange clay courts. 

 Actually they have a little experiment on this year, presenting some of the center court matches in 3D.  One of our TVs has a 3D option and I’ve been getting up early (3 or 4am) to watch. Lots of folks complain about having to wear glasses to watch 3D but since I wear glasses all the time that’s not an issue.   Speaking of tennis I’ve noticed my right hip has been complaining more in my recent games.  Makes me wonder if one day in the next couple of years it will need replacing to match the left one. 

 

At least my wicked business travel schedule has paused for the moment.  I’ve managed to complete one contract project at work and am looking forward to starting a new one early June.  Am loving what I’m doing and getting very positive feedback from my bosses which always helps. 

 

I’ve at last managed to publish my second book  – another family history of a branch fairly remote from the main stem, and definitely not destined to make any best seller lists, but at least a record for grandkids and maybe great grandkids etc.  Even an influence and motivator for some friends to try something similar. 

On Thursday nights now I go to a writing class – max 5 ‘students’, each of us with other occupations, learning to write for the sheer enjoyment of doing so.  The group has encouraged me to turn all the work I put into recording the family histories into writing an historical novel that might have more mainstream appeal.  So every spare moment I find I put pen to paper in a new effort.  What’s surprising is that I find I can just add a single paragraph at a sitting or maybe three pages at a time.  In the past I’ve usually had to write large sections all at once.  Perhaps it’s because I have the history in front of me and am just interpreting or adapting it so I really know where I am going, just don’t have all the minute details which make it a story organized ahead of time.   

There’s a big difference between doing detective work and research and setting it in time perspective to anticipating what folks may have said to one another in certain instances.  On the research side I had the benefit of access to a unique book written by a Beaufoy family member who had transcribed old letters describing living arrangements, relationships and family activities, as well as 3 diaries from my heroine, Eliza Taylor, all of which ended up with full transcriptions.  Because one of the initiating families in England was relatively famous a large source of information was available in the London Lambeth archives.  The closest I got to patterns of their thinking was seeing handwritten responses to letters received by Eliza’s uncle Henry Beaufoy.  But that was all.  Beyond that my novel  requires made up dialog.  Not one of my natural creative and writing skills.   

But I’m now through 9 chapters and 50 pages.  The writing class has offered numerous comments with one woman in particular helping open my mind to talk about what individuals might be thinking or feeling in certain circumstances.  I’m actually thoroughly enjoying the task and experience.  A man writing about females and their feelings is a real challenge so I’m tickled pink with the support I’m getting.  Of course I admit to being quite nervous about the need at some point to write about sexual activity, feelings or issues.  I’m hoping I can keep it sensual as opposed to blatantly sexual.  We’ll see. 

Am sure there’s more to talk about but it will have to come later.  Have a big presentation at work this coming week, so will be using part of Monday’s holiday to get ready.  That’s how the world is these days – each day is a mixture of work and personal activity.  We’re planning a vacation in September to Phoenix, Sedona and the Grand Canyon. Gail’s never been to the latter so it should be fun.  I think in the future we’ll do more local travel as opposed to overseas jaunts.  We’re also exploring the possibility of touring Northern Michigan maybe in July.  Neither of us have ever been to that part of the country. 

Meanwhile we keep our fingers crossed that it will warm up here  and we can turn the heat off.

Cheers for now

Warren