I recently did a course through Future Learn on humanism. One of the set tasks was to write your own eulogy from a humanist standpoint. That is, there is no afterlife and once you’re dead, you’re dead. It’s a viewpoint I feel quite happy with. Don’t worry I am not planning on dying anytime soon. I hope that I am around for many more years to come!
A eulogy for Robyn
Wow! What a life! What a life my friend lived! She lived with passion, enthusiasm and vigour. She was never afraid to try something new. To create a challenge or set a goal. She annoyed us with her special projects and obsessions. She annoyed us with her bossy and dominating personality but still, we loved her energy and drive. Her get up and go! Her pizazz!
Well, her get up and go has finally got up and gone and her chirpy voice with it. We are sad at her passing but OUR lives are richer for her being here and we pause today to celebrate that life. That temporary cohesion of elements and energy that combined in a unique way and in this time-frame, to make the human we called Robyn.
Robyn’s one life was, in the end, a life well-lived. She tried each day to make a difference to someone or some cause that needed a little boost. She had kind words to say to those who would listen. She had new tricks to learn and she kept us entertained.
Robyn’s philosophy of life and death was a simple one.
We start from nothing. We end as nothing. But our life is our everything and it is not for nothing.
For her, a life well lived was one that leaves behind a string of memories and inspiration for those of us who remember her. We remember her travels. We remember her photos and quirky little movies. We remember her stories. We remember she couldn’t type to save her life and was hopeless at editing her own work! But these things did not stop her from getting out and having a go. For being brave enough to put her thoughts out in the world.
In her autumn years, she supported the plight of older women, The Old Chooks. The older women marginalised by society who became vulnerable, homeless and forgotten in a culture that values youth over the beauty of a caring soul. She asks that you support charitable causes that help older women rather than put flowers on her burial place.
Robyn’s motto “Be Invincible, Not Invisible” will live on in her memoirs and autobiographical short films.
Robyn’s last wish was for you to stand here with her one last time, to enjoy the good food her family have prepared and add one small memory of your time with her to the slips of paper and add it to the jar being passed around.
She asks you to move on, think of her fondly and know that she’s looking forward to becoming fertiliser for those trees!
I know some of my posts have been a bit dark lately. Don’t worry, I am not feeling dark. I am grateful that I have a secure job in an “essential Industry”. I am grateful that I am still healthy and have plenty of food in the cupboard.
If you are feeling dark and need help, please reach out to services such as Lifeline
Every four weeks, I go to my lovely hairdresser, Katrina, and get my grey hair cut and coloured. I walk away feeling a million dollars with super sleek and shiny tresses. The greying temples and roots are successfully hidden once again and for a week or so can be completely forgotten. While thankfully, it does not cost me a million to feel like a million – it is still a hefty commitment of money and time. For me, hairdressing is an essential service and my monthly trips have survived the budget cuts imposed by my Year of Zero.
I am not really sure what my natural colour is. Neither can I remember when I began dying my hair. It’s something I have been doing in the salon or at home for, it seems, forever. I think the first time I changed my hair colour was back in high school, perhaps in Year 9? At that time, we used a product called Magic Silver Rose or Magic Silver White undiluted. My bestie, Annette and I used to dip our fringes straight into the bottle to make it bright pink or purple. These products were initially designed for older women (“the blue rinse set“) to cover up the grey.
The bright hair trend is being repeated now. I giggle when I see young people with their hair dyed brilliant blue, green and pink thinking they are all original and rebellious. We did that – back in the ’70s.
I take my hat off to those women, like Helen Mirren, who wear their grey locks with style and elegance. Of course, being a celebrity and having a stylist on hand helps a little too! Some of my friends also have spectacular white or grey hair that looks very funky and they wear it with class. Perhaps it’s time for me to embrace the grey and stop dying my hair.
The question is, how do you go cold turkey on the dyeing front? Nothing says tacky quite like regrowth!
Step number one would be to move to a deserted island and come back in a year when your hair has grown enough so you can just cut it off in a cute little pixie style.
I chatted with Katrina about how to go about it. It is a long process, and once you start, you need to be committed. It combines cutting and colouring. Cutting off the previously dyed hair and re-colouring the new growth to match the grey coming through. After a year or so, voila – you have stunning grey hair that requires less maintenance. Or so the story goes.
STOP! STOP! This is where you need to be able to insert sound effects in the written word.
Play the sound of a needle being scratched across a record as it is suddenly stopped.
This is not what my blog is about! This is not a representation of my values! Martha Stewart-like advice on how to change your hair colour! I feel like a fraud. Once again, I am drawn into this murky world of ageism and sexism. Where youth is queen, and older women become irrelevant and invisible. Where grey hair is synonymous with undesirable or unf@#kable.
Why is grey hair such an issue in the first place? I am reluctant to take the plunge and my own discourse around the whole grey issue is contradictory. I don’t think I should feel bad about being grey from a sociological standpoint, but I still have to live in this world!
We call men with greying temples distinguished. We call them silver foxes. Women are declared “brave” for letting their hair grey. Brave being code for “I wouldn’t do it”.
Why don’t women wear it as a badge of courage?
I got here! I survived! I didn’t do anything too stupid! I raised children!
The reasons are, of course, all tied up with marketing, consumerism and money. The hair dye industry is a multi-billion dollar industry globally. Seventy-five per cent of women colour their hair at some stage in their life. The number of men dying their hair is increasing.
Let’s not even get into a discussion about whether hair dye is toxic or harmful in any way to ourselves or to the environment. That’s a whole other ball game!
There is no way that sort of consumerist pressure is going to let us feel good about going grey. Not in my lifetime, anyway.
Let’s start chipping away at this ageism. One strand at a time!
At the end of November, I stepped way way out of my comfort zone and did a studio shoot with lights! We were aiming for moody and exotic. I learnt a lot and got some good images which Tara Yasmin will use for her social media. Still so much more to learn but it was a good start!
A few months ago I published my first set of reviews for small bars in Wollongong. Six bars done over two nights. In that post, I promised to review some more with my trusty group of Old Chook researchers. You can read that first comprehensive review here.
Since then the group has grown. From three foundation members we now have five. This poses a few questions in regards to the reliability of our study. I have had to do some tricky statistical calculations to try and reduce any problems with our data. The total scores for all the bars have been moderated by calculating the raw score dividing by the number of participants and then multiplying the per person score by 4 to give a moderated value. Rough and ready perhaps, but OK for these purposes.
This review covers six more small bars in Wollongong. Red Square, His Boy Elroy, the Humber Bar (in early June); Howling Wolf, The Little Prince and The Bavarian (in early August) . We used the same scoring matrix we used in the other reviews.
June Session Reviews:
108 Keira Street
The Red Square is a vodka bar. We were there early, and as we have noticed before for this early time slot, the place was more or less empty. A few groups of office workers were having extended Friday after-work drinks. The vibe was friendly and relaxed.
The decor is dark with lots of bright neon lights on the bar itself while the rest of the lighting is very subdued – you could say it was dark! But we like that. Easy on the eyes and you don’t feel like you are in a supermarket. This bar won the prettiest bar competition for the night. The back-lighting behind the bottles and the matching labels were very effective.
The bare floorboards and bare walls made for a noisy interior although we all agreed the playlist was good. The music itself was not obtrusive and we liked the selection. They do have live music but we left before that started. While it was easy to get a seat, the seats themselves were basic unpadded stools. Despite being a vodka bar there was a good selection of other drinks and the prices very reasonable. They had some nice cocktails on offer. The food offerings were good and well priced, although you might find it tough to make a selection if you were vegetarian.
We would all go again. The service was friendly and efficient but there was little interaction.
BEST: Red Square offered good value for money for both their drinks and food menu with a good choice of offerings.
WORST: The seats. Sorry fellas but a cushion would be good!
His Boy Elroy.
Keira Street (in the shopping mall)
His Boy Elroy used to be in Globe Lane. I went there a few times at that location and remember it to be a hipster sort of place where neat beards would be de rigueur. Not now. The new His Boy Elroy would be best described as a sports bar. There were lots of TVs playing sports channels and sports related paraphernalia bedecking the walls. Even though it was relatively early – around 8:30 PM when we arrived, we had to wait for an inside table. We could get one outside but it was chilly and the outdoor heater not close enough to the available table.
Tasty and generous portions
As Old Chooks we felt very much out of place here, and while the bar staff were friendly and welcoming, the very obvious presence of security people was a bit off putting. The other customers were all at least half our age. HBE scored poorly in few areas. Firstly the toilet facilities. While clean and fragrant they are a long way away! As the bar is part of the shopping complex you actually have to go into the mall and find the toilets in there. Don’t leave it to the last minute is my advice!
There was a limited choice of food and drinks. Ten varieties of beers and only a choice of two whites and two red wines. It’s a burger joint so there are burgers and not much else on the food menu. We opted for loaded fries. The serving was very generous and they were tasty.
The music was described as loud doof-doof which made talking difficult. The one standout in the scoring was that we all agreed we would not go again.
This is not an Old Chooks Bar! If you are under 30 and looking for a place to hang out with friends, it would be a great place, but it’s not what we would look for in a good night out.
BEST: The food was reasonably priced and in generous portions.
WORST: The noise levels. TV on, Music On, People ON! Too much on!
The Humber Bar
226 Crown Street
Now, this was more like it. The Humber Bar is on three levels. It has plenty of room and each floor has a different atmosphere. We opted for the mezzanine level. There were only a few people there. It was more crowded upstairs, but as you should know by now crowds do not necessarily make a good Old Chooks’ night out! The Humber Bar has pleasant but minimalist decor. It has lounges around two sides of its triangular walls. The lighting is good, not too dark or bright and the volume of the music excellent. The food selection was impressive and at a good price. The drinks menu equally good and served in nice glassware. The bar staff were very friendly, with two people serving about ten people we did not have to wait at all and they were happy to chat.
Co-incidentally an impromptu drama unfolded in front of us. A 40-something man sitting at the bar cuddling a much younger woman. Another woman and her friend walked in. She yelled, he jumped, the younger woman disappeared and the friend spent the rest of the night consoling the older woman. Turns out the man’s wife had busted him with the “other woman”. Very dramatic although you could have missed all the action, if you weren’t so observant.
We would all go again. This was a good location for an Old Chooks’ night out and the upper level would be a good place if you are looking for somewhere more lively.
BEST: Wide selection of food and drinks.
WORST: The Humber scored well in all aspects; to pick a worst, it was the un-padded bar stools, once again. We could have sat on the lounges but that was not really suitable for a group of four.
We had set the date for our August research a few weeks in advance. As usual, finding a date when everyone is free is not easy, but the stars aligned and we had a date fixed. The unusually cold weather and predicted 100 km winds did not deter us from our mission! We rugged up with jackets, scarves and beanies and headed off, our group expanded by one more member.
Our planned bars for the night were, Howlin’ Wolf, The Little Prince and Another Burger Joint. We discovered that the Burger Joint had closed down so we opted for the Bavarian after cruising past Holey Moley and another bar underneath Crown Central. We avoided both of those but in the interests of social science we will go back to them to complete our study. But heads up, they may not score well on the Chook-o-meter. One is a putt putt golf bar, the other full of arcade games.
Down to business.
The Howlin’ Wolf Whiskey Bar
103/53-61 Crown Street (it’s in an arcade)
I arrived at the Howlin Wolf a little before 7PM. My Uber had come quicker than expected. The bar is located in a laneway that runs off Crown Street. There is a pizza shop at one end of the lane and a burger place at the other. The bar itself is very hip with dark interiors, some hand painted “artworks” on the walls and ceiling. By the time everyone arrived and ordered first drinks it was about 7:10. We had apparently missed happy hour by 10 minutes. Oh well… we thought… but then the next people to get served (by a different waiter) DID get the happy hour prices! We felt a little ripped off!
Despite this, the prices were still reasonable and the selection of wine good even though it’s a whiskey bar. The tables were small and the stools low and rickety. The music was loud although in good taste. We could sing along to it all. They probably thought they were being very retro but it was the soundtrack of our youth! Food was an issue. They did not have a kitchen of their own. They had a few choices available which came from the aforementioned pizza/burger places OR since they had deals with most of the other restaurants in the area you could order online and get it delivered. We opted to do without so the scores will be a bit low because of this. The stemless glassware was elegant and apart from missing out on the happy hour pricing, we were happy with the selection. The toilets were clean and abundant. 80% said they would return. Howlin’ Wolf is also a live music venue. They were setting up as we left.
BEST: The good playlist.
WORST: Inconsistent application of happy hour policy!
The Little Prince
The Little Prince is a flagship small bar in Wollongong. It has been open for as long as I can remember. I can’t find anything on their Facebook page to say how long they have been opened, but it’s a long time. It has been a steady favourite for many and was one of the first alternate wine bars to open in the ‘Gong. It is relaxed and elegant with a small indoor seating area and a larger outdoor area, some of which is undercover. It is a great summer venue. We were there in August and as I said above the winds were raging and the temperature below 10C. All the inside seats were understandably taken and we made our way out to sit undercover and near a heater. We kept our jackets and scarfs on. The seating is very comfortable and the general atmosphere cozy. We watched the wind whip the plastic walls in and out.
The drinks menu is good and there is a wide range of tapas and pizza to choose from. Our group ordered a pizza and some hot chips. Both came quickly and were piping hot. The servers were friendly and were able to advise on alternatives to a wine that was out of stock. The music was unobtrusive, to the point that none of us made special mention of it in our surveys. It was easy to chat and we stayed longer than anticipated. A good sign I guess!
BEST: Excellent food selection
WORST: While we were out of the wind, we needed to keep our jackets on. Not really a winter venue.
Crown Street – Wollongong Central Complex
The Bavarian is also part of the Wollongong Central Shopping Mall. It only opened very recently. It is advertised as a German Restaurant and Bar and is part of a chain. The wooden bench seating and bright lighting made it feel like a McDonalds with alcohol. There were also TV’s on the walls playing sports. Is this the thing now?
The bar staff were very friendly and welcoming. A fellow a bit like Hagar the Horrible opened the door for us. He was obviously security but unlike His Boy Elroy he was not dressed in black so he did not look like security. This must be part of the deal of having a bar in this complex?
The bar was nicely set up with glasses hanging from racks. The bar prices were not so pretty. Starting at about $12 a glass, which is not unusual, the servings were VERY small. You could buy a larger serve which was twice the price but not twice the volume. Food choices were good and we were able to select a few share plates. The fried Camembert tasty, but perhaps a little outdated? (or is it so out of date it’s retro?) 60% of us would go back. I think it would be a great venue for big group booking. You could be as noisy as you wanted without a care. It was certainly not the place to go on an intimate first date.
BEST: Glassware and quality of the wine.
WORST: Value for money.
And the winner is…..
So to get to the nitty gritty. The winner out of these 6 bars was the Humber with Red Sqaure and The Little Prince only a few points behind.
Overall, Births and Deaths is still our top scoring small bar in Wollongong, although there is not much in it. I think we may have been a little harsh on Throsby’s? Perhaps we need to revisit there and give them a chance to redeem themselves.
Stayed tuned for Part 3 when we finish off the small bars in Wollongong!
I am not yet brave enough to take traditional style portraits but I really like the idea of taking environmental portraits. That is, taking pictures of people doing their thing in their space. These two images are from the photo shoot I talked about a couple of weeks ago in Photo of the Week 18.
Taken with a Panasonic FZ1000 and edited in Lightroom. Natural light.
The door of the pub flew open, and an old woman, lugging an oversized suitcase and a heavy backpack, struggled to fit through its frame .
She flung her suitcase bedside a table close to the fireside and strode up to the bar. The bag was big. She was small.
“Impressive!” the bartender thought, surprised by the old girl’s strength.
“What’s it going to be then, eh?” he asked.
She ignored him as she poked around in her backpack muttering to herself.
“It’s in here somewhere. I know I packed it.”
He presumed she was looking for her wallet, but when she slammed that down on the bar, he figured he was wrong.
“Madam?” he tried again, “What will it be?”
Judging from her skin, her hair and her sensible shoes, he figured she must be around 70. The backs of her hands had the tell-tale age spots that he’d seen on his own grandmother.
He figured she was deaf. “MADAM?” he said with more volume.
She shot him a soul-withering glance. The crimson glint of the fire was reflected, blood-like, in her dark, bright eyes. He took a step back. He figured he wouldn’t ask her again.
“Ahhh! Here it is!” she said holding a small crystal vial. It was filled with fluorescent liquid that sparkled with the same red he had seen in her eyes. His curiosity stirred.
“Toilet?” she asked abruptly.
He pointed to the corner of the room. The woman turned on her heel, leaving her stuff in a pile on the bar.
When the woman returned, her skin was smooth and lustrous, the age spots gone. Her dark hair no longer anchored by steely grey. Thirty years had vanished!
His mouth flapped wordlessly.
“It’s fantastic, isn’t’ it!” she said.
“What is it?”
“It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution,” she whispered as she held the vial up to the light, twitching it, so the ruby liquid sloshed about.
“Would you like to try it?” she asked, her voice laced in honey and silk.
“Yes,” his gasped, with fearful anticipation.
“It’s not cheap…come.” she beckoned.
He took all the cash from the till and followed her into the cold night.
In the pale morning light, the police officers stood over the bartender’s cold, grey body.
“It’s a bit queer that his lips are still so red, isn’t it Sarge?” the constable asked.
“I don’t understand.” the sergeant said quietly as he removed a vial from the bartender’s stiff fingers. “He’s never done anything like this before.”
The noise of tyres on gravel distracted them and they watched as a red convertible passed slowly by. Their eyes were drawn to two identically dressed women sitting up front. Mother and daughter perhaps? One around 40, the other maybe 70?
As I was looking for articles about older women doing amazing things, I came across this story in the Telegraph. Not exactly what I was searching for, but thought-provoking none-the-less.
The report concentrates on the shift in attitudes of women who, 20 years ago, may have been described as middle-aged. It highlights how older women are generally taking on a more positive approach to aging and being more confident to express a style other than “grandma”.
This section particularly resonated with me and sent me on the search for more information.
Everywhere we look, highly visible older women are rewriting all the rules. From JK Rowling to Nicole Kidman; Michelle Obama to Anna Wintour, they are at the peak of their power and creativity.
They are engaged, influential and often increasingly political.
There’s even a new term to describe people with this no-age mindset: ‘perennials’
It was coined by US internet entrepreneur Gina Pell, 49, who explains, ‘Perennials are ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology and have friends of all ages. We get involved, stay curious, mentor others, and are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded risk takers.’
Hell yeah! I want to be a perennial!
You can hear more about Gina Pell’s idea of perennials in this Youtube video. Not everything she says had the same point of resonance, but I like where she is coming from.
I think the Telegraph has misquoted her because Nina refutes the concept of being ever-blooming. My interpretation is that age should not be equivalent to relevancy.
I found this newspaper advertisement in a recipe book my mum kept full of clippings of things she wanted to cook. It’s from 1975. It caught my eye for two reasons. It shows how our attitudes have changed, and it struck me as oddly relevant to my life at the time.
While the #MeToo movement has highlighted the need for women (in particular) to be treated with more respect and dignity, things were different in 1976. What we would consider sexual abuse or exploitation was a “normal” part of the landscape.
When I was 15, I used to walk home from school through the local shopping centre. I could take one of two routes. Either through the arcade (quicker) or up to the end of the shopping strip (more to see). This longer walk went past a butcher’s shop. The butcher, Bill, was a man somewhere between 35 and 40. He used to park is brown Porsche Carrera out the front of his store. I would sometimes slow down to look at it. He must have noticed me, and he would wave and smile. After a few weeks, the wave and smile turned into him coming out to say a few words, and then eventually me going in to chat with him. It all started pretty innocently. Then the talk started getting a bit risque. Flirting, I thought, and I was flattered that an older man with a Porsche would pay any attention to me, a silly school girl in a short skirt. It eventually became outright sex talk, and I felt excited! He was a sophisticated guy, and I felt so grown up! I knew it was “naughty,” but that was the risky part of it, the part that made it fun.
So I kept going by and talking to him. It’s hard to remember the time frame now, but he asked me out. I was over the moon. Can you imagine how sophisticated I felt! I didn’t tell my mother, but my best friend’s mum was in on it, and she didn’t seem to think it was inappropriate. She gave me no warnings. There was no talk of the age gap beyond “Wow…he’s an older man paying attention to you; be flattered.” Mrs. J helped me get ready in a tight black dress and lace-up boots. I looked fabulous in a 70’s kind of way!
He picked me up from their house, and off we sped in the Porche. First, to a Chinese restaurant in Beverly Hills, where Bill winked at the creepy-looking maître d’. The maître d’ ran his eyes over me in a way that stopped my breath. This was my first inkling that things were a little more sinister than my naivety had allowed. The nervous, excited butterflies in my gut began to be replaced by more anxious thoughts. I didn’t have a Plan B. Plan B’s were not a thing in 1976; I had no money. I was a long way from home.
He bought a bottle of wine and poured me a glass. The drinking age is 18. The restaurant was breaking the law. “No problem,” said Bill “the owner is my friend.” After dinner, he suggested a movie. Sounded good to me, perhaps a little tipsy.
We went to Oxford Street in Sydney. These days a hip place with lots of bars that cater mostly to the LGBTIQ crowd, back then, about the only place you could see X-rated movies in Sydney. As we walked in, he handed the guy at the door some cash, presumably, a bribe since it was a restricted premise. We sat in the dark seats, I looked around, and I realised there were not many other women there. The “action” started on screen. I felt sick! Uncomfortable. Scared. I said I didn’t want to watch anymore and would he take me home.
I’ll give this to Bill; he never tried anything I hadn’t said yes to. He never tried to kiss or touch me. We drove home from Sydney to my place. The one hour trip took less than 30 minutes. He drove hard and fast in that Porsche, certainly exceeding the speed limit. He didn’t speak. I could sense he was angry.
From then I always went home via the arcade. I never saw Bill again. I had emerged unscathed.
More than forty years on I reflect on this and it stands out so clearly he was a paedophile. That he had been grooming me from the beginning. Starting with slightly rude jokes and working up to porn. Thankfully, he had some principles. It could have ended very differently. I don’t recall hearing words like paedophile then. Sure, there were creepy guys you avoided, but as a 15-year-old, I didn’t feel like a target. I hadn’t heard of books like Lolita. It just wasn’t a “thing”. Not in my world anyway.
I don’t characterise myself as a victim. I willingly, although naively, put myself in a place I should have avoided. In retrospect, I am concerned my friend’s mother did nothing but encourage me. I am glad to think this is less likely to happen now.
(Apologies to you mum! Here’s another story you didn’t know about!)
I wrote this post in response to the trial and later sentencing of Cardinal Pell; Australia’s highest ranking priest and a man who has caused misery to many. If this post has caused you any distress, I urge you to seek help through some of the agencies that have been set up for this express purpose. Just because it happened a long time ago, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.