Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Onward To Glory I Go: Farewell, Lord of La Mancha

How do I begin to tell you about Keith?

Handsome, clever, rugged, romantic and yet practical. Athletic and yet not a team player. Gregarious and yet an outsider. Supremely confident and yet deeply defensive. Loving and accepting and yet unswervingly set in his beliefs. An eldest son and a country boy from a Silesian immigrant family, in Australia they turned their hands to orchards and made a good fist of it.  Keith's talent and ambition however,  far outstripped that worthy, but pedestrian, endeavour.

At a tender age, in a milk bar in Adelaide, Keith saw the girl who would turn his life upside down  and keep it that way for over seventy years.
Daughter of a well to do Adelaide family, his modest background and contempt for authority did not endear him to her socially conservative family. This was to be an ongoing battle.
But this pretty, creative and gregarious young woman found, in Keith, her lifeline.

Georgia was the 'non-son' of a staunchly conservative man and a deeply self centered woman. Not the boy they were hoping for, a little too much trouble to be bothered with, Georgia was dispatched to boarding school at an early age, to better allow her mother time to attend to her older, 'more talented' sister. But, irrepressible, Georgia grew and blossomed so that when Keith laid eyes on her, in that milk bar, there was no turning back. She finally had someone who not only saw 'her', but thought she was a pretty big deal, to boot.

Four years after their daughter Bestie was born, an English family moved in 'down the street'. Bestie remembers her mother entreating her to 'go and play with the little English girl'. I have no such recollection. For me, Bestie was just 'always there'.

Bestie and I were an unlikely and yet inevitable combination. Incredibly different in character to begin with; me a volatile eldest wild child with edgy looks and a tomboy attitude, she a sweet and pretty only child with a strong sense of fair play and a ridiculously open and honest relationship with her parents ("I cannot tell a lie. It was me who chopped down your cherry tree father....").
We united over a love of books, imaginative play and learning.
Intellectually we challenged each other; in character we enriched each other; in many ways we competed with each other. But we lived in each others pockets, three houses down, for 16 years (feels longer).

Bestie's parents were so different to mine. They were a little older and they seemed very exotic to me. I remember Keith getting his pilot's Wings. (Bestie's dad flew planes!!)

My own parents were Northern England; working class and really just discovering a world of culture, living 12,000 miles from the small coal mining town where they were born.

Georgia, seemed incredibly elegant to me. She was brought up with privilege, exposure to the arts and a sense of style that always left me awed. My mother was crimplene mini skirts and synthetic carpets. Georgia was flowing kaftans and axminsters. Here they are with Smoky Jo at our house in the 60s. Check out our matching chairs and curtains :-D

Georgia introduced Bestie and I to 'the musicals'. We sat for hours with the record player, listening to:
Gypsy, The Pyjama Game, Camelot,West Side Story, Paint Your Wagon, My Fair Lady, Man of La Mancha.....

What impressed me was that Keith, too, loved  the romance and the nobility of these musicals
My dad listened to Sibelius and Benjamin Britten whom, in my naivety, I saw as 'boring'. Keith and Georgia would sit and talk us through the stories of the musicals, explaining the messages, the lessons, the romantic myths.....and then they would sing along.....

I was captivated. My parents did very little together.

One of Keith's favorites was 'Man of La Mancha'.  With his extraordinary deep and resonant voice he would bellow out the chorus:
"I am I, Don Quixote, The Lord of La Mancha, my destiny calls and I go...."


When we were about 12 or 13, Bestie's parents bought an enormous property in the north of the state. Keith built the ranch style house himself, by hand.
He called it 'La Mancha'.

Oh the times we spent at La Mancha. What a place it was for the city girls we were.
We rode horses, skinned rabbits, ran from enormous spiders, saw herds of cattle, met the local boys, got terribly sunburned, discovered rum......

But this post is about Keith.
Keith who smoked camels and was the definitive man's man.
Keith who engaged me in 'debate' and frustration through my teen years because he was always 'right' and whom my little sister dubbed 'HK' (Horrible Keith) because of his post war domineering manner and delight in teasing her.

Keith who read chapters from the Narnia stories to us on Saturday afternoons.
The juggernaut personality who crafted jewellery out of opals in his back shed and patiently carved exquisite saddles out of leather.

What a conundrum he was.

When we visited Australia in 1999, the BA was 4 and we weren't quite sure what she would make of the tall, bluff, blustering Keith. We needn't have worried. She took to him like a duck to water.

At one point he had to ask for assistance so he could visit the gents without his 'shadow'. hahahahahaha

Keith had such an impact on my life.
He could make my Mother laugh.

He showed us what it meant to truly love another; through thick and thin, unconditionally, for the long haul.

He always said he didn't want to be the invalid in a hospital bed.

Father of The Bestie, inextricably entwined with my life, Keith made his decision, determined and deliberate as he always was, and left us on Saturday 21st October 2017. He was 85.

I am so grateful that he was such a big a part of my life.

One down Bestie. Three to go.
God we've been blessed.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Revegetating the Wasteland

When I posted this picture of my 'garden' last June, I had already started the process of making something out of a pretty sad, nothing.
 I started by ddeveloping a track diagonally down across the face of the 'dropoff', so that I could get the wheelbarrow down to the lower level.
This is the 'track.....

See...the wheelbarrow goes down the track...

In this photo you can also see (squint!) the little plugs of pigface I stuck in all over the face of the drop off, to see if it would 'take'.

Yes, you really do have to squint.....

I planted these little bushes along the fence line. They apparently grow to 4m high, although they've got a long way to go.....

 And I put in a few agapanthus rescued from my neighbour's rubbish pile, just for good measure.

You can just see the pigface starting to 'take off' in the above photo.

 Anyway, by the end of the summer the garden was starting to look like this....

 And then winter came....with soursobs....

In winter in the Adelaide hills, you can just about forget gardening. These insidious weeds take over everything and in some ways it's a test of the resilience of your other plants. If the soursobs don't choke them, they should be reasonable stayers in your garden.

I engaged a gardener through the winter, to spray the weeds and lay down some mulch, mostly in the front garden as it is a more manageable size. At the end of winter he came and whippersnippered all the knee deep soursobs in the back garden. Unfortunately he also took out two prostrate Jasmine, a Nandina, two Clerodendrums and all my alstroemerias.

Undeterred I decided to start 'terracing' the drop off, with the sleepers left over from the stairway demolition.

And now it is starting to LOOK like a garden.

Meanwhile up the top...

I started to attack the weeds and improve the soil  ready for planting.

A friend gave me a few cuttings and I fastidiously sifted the soil to remove as many of the soursob bulbs as I could.

This is what it looks like now...

Sadly the gum leaves are an ever present disadvantage of living in the hills. Sweep them up one day and they're back the next.

By November, this is how my garden was looking....

The top half is starting to look more covered (thank you pigface) and the alstroemerias had recovered and are starting to add some much needed colour. A strange white pipe had emerged through the  bank however, the terracing was rough and unfinished and my path was starting to disappear as soil washed downhill every time it rained.

 So I've been hard at it this past week, trying to finish the terracing (in a very amateur, girlie fashion. They'll probably end up halfway down the hill after a good rain...) and planting up more succulents.

 Path before...

Path after....

Still got a ways to go I'm afraid.... but ooh! I forgot to tell you about the 'art' my sister Smokey Jo gave me for Christmas...

I'm planting little succulents all around it so eventually it will be emerging from a bed of greenery...

The bottom of the garden remains a separate story, dependent as it does upon my getting the retaining walls around the lower shed attended to. That will involve heavy equipment so I am mindful of not planting too far down as it will all be trashed eventually.

A for those little guys along the side fence? Well, they've still got a long way to go....

But let's just remember, 12 months ago.....

And now.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Nothing Gold Can Stay

On the Monday of the last week of school this term, two of our former teachers had babies. One was a miracle baby, born after a long, prayer filled battle with infertility; the other a honeymoon pregnancy conceived without struggle. One lived. One did not.

Surprisingly, it was the honeymoon baby who visited only briefly, leaving a hand-print on the hearts of her devastated parents; parents who had been told that she was not well designed for this world and who chose to faithfully trust and prepare for her arrival anyway. The reality of her fleeting 6 hour visit has left them broken.

I question the wisdom of their miracle seeking faith. To me, if God had seen fit to let me know before hand that this baby was not going to live, I would have taken that information and prepared myself, and the people around me, who love me, as best I could. Is it not miracle enough that we can see inside the womb and see the truth of things? But I am wrong to make this judgement. None of us can know, with certainty, what we would choose to do faced with the shattering loss of the 'yet to come'.

I'm feeling a certain guilt that several of us, who were privy to the possibility, have discussed and pronounced and shaken our heads in disbelief at this couple's decision to believe. I am torn between the 'well, what did they expect?' and an angry awe that their faith was strong enough to allow them to take this road, ending as it did in such savage loss.

And it has connected with a loss in me which I have been feeling for some time now and had been unable to name. A loss which comes to me in dreams of a knobbly kneed laughing girl with freckles and golden hair, calling for me across a garden, or down some stairs, or past the faces of her friends in the school yard.

Because, as guilty as I feel for having had her for longer than 6 hours, she is indeed, just as devastatingly, gone.

And it doesn't stop me dreaming of her, and waking with wet cheeks and a hole in my heart because the reality is that her grown-up self is separating from me; ever so gradually, piece by piece, moment by moment, as inexorably as the rolling seasons.

Of which this grief, is one.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Back In May.......9 To 5

I cannot give this place up. Look at me, back here after months of absence. It's like a guilty pleasure. I don't even know who I'm reaching anymore, but heck, I do love journalling...even if it is months after the event.

So back in May I took part in my second show with The Met, '9 To 5'. Yes, as in Dolly Parton.
I didn't know anything about the show when I went to the information night and as I'm not a huge country music fan, I was a little dubious. Listening to the director talk about the show and the characters, I was caught up in the excitement and, listening to the song for the character I thought I could play......I was even more convinced.

I didn't get the part I wanted, but I did get my second choice, the office lush, Margaret.

That's me, the fat chick on the left in the wig......

This role was so much fun. I got to choose the wildest 70s clothes I could find, that Margaret may have put on blindly in a 'morning after haze'. Check out my faaabulous green eyeshadow while you're there......

This photo disturbed me when I saw my double chin but, you know what? We are what we are nowadays! I even got to play with a real typewriter! What a flashback...... 

The fantasy dream sequences saw us 'dancing' like complete twits.......

And I got to 'emote' furiously in the background whilst having minimal lines to remember. WIN!

I loved playing around with attention to detail. A number of people said "Do you know you've got your buttons done up wrong..." until they looked me in the eye and went.."Oh, right....On purpose...I get it"

Here's a bit more 'emoting'.....

As a bonus, I got to play the cleaner in the hospital scene. 
Knowing she had to cover a complicated scene change at the end, the director asked me to mop the stage back and forwards until the office had been set up again. After all, there are cleaners at hospitals AND offices....
My wicked heart leapt at the idea of being alone onstage with a mop...with no direction....haha! 
The possibilities...heh heh hehh....
Until the director said..."oh, Arizaphale, while you're there, do something funny..."
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!THE PRESSURE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

To my delight (and surprise), I got applause each night.
I didn't actually do that much, so I guess I must just look funny.
Either that or some audiences are easily pleased.....
I actually think I was channeling my grandmother in this scene.

That's her in the middle. What do you think?

But all this unattractiveness was ok because at the end of the show I got to 'go to rehab'  and come back on..almost unrecognisable!
(This was dress rehearsal and I eventually got my own hair to behave a bit better by wearing a wig cap under the hideous wig....but I'm sure you get the idea.)

To my astonishment, I usually got a round of applause for this transformation too! 
Audiences here are too kind......

I had such a lot of fun on this production. I remember standing in the wings during the opening to the final show and offering up a silent prayer of thanks for, the opportunity to do, this thing I love. I also made the decision, at the 'after party', to finally, after all these years, take singing lessons; a journey which is bringing both grief and joy and tearing away a whole bunch of preconceptions and inhibitions.....

Buoyed by this experience I auditioned for a role in the next production, 'Bye Bye Birdie'. I didn't get it, which in years gone by would have totally destroyed me, but, I am a wiser girl who actually trusts God to put me 'where I need to be' nowadays. I have a lot of stuff going on at work at the moment. There are opportunities for change which could have a far reaching positive impact on my ministry to children with Learning Disabilities. Additionally, I needed a rest. Sitting here now, 5 months later, I can breathe a sigh of relief that I am not currently in the frantic lead up to production that would rob me of my upcoming holidays and the clear mind needed to consider a plan of action for systemic change.

I have signed up for the SALOS Christmas concert however! Low stress, a bit of fun and an outlet for the creative show off in my soul..

I'll hopefully see you sooner rather than later folks!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Ten Years Later

I am becoming very reflective of late. 

It is ten years since I started this blog. 

This is what I looked like then.

I was recently married, full of joy, excitement, and looking toward the future.

 Ten years later  
I am still full of joy and looking toward the future. It's just that a significant part of my time is caught up in dealing with pain. My own and that of others.
There is the pain of my own aging: sciatica,  tennis elbow, cataracts.
There is the pain of watching those you love gradually exiting this life.
There is the pain of seeing your beloved child struggle with a plan for their future.

Ten Years Later

I am on my own again.
I am saddened by failure. I am  relieved by financial security.
I am not looking for another partner.

Ten Years Later

I love my job.
 I love the progress I have made. I know I should be able to do it better. I think I may finish my working life here.

Ten Years Later
I love love love my house
I know how much more love it still needs.
It fills me with joy every day.

Ten Years Later
I am back on stage.

So that's good.