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Archive for March, 2014

Be sure to be sure!

It’s St Patrick’s Day and the title of the post is a play on that well-known Irish saying, ‘To be shoore! To be sure!’

She was pregnant with her second child and the baby was due slap, bang on the day that honour’s Ireland’s Saint Patrick, that is, 17th March. Loyal to all things that remotely hinted of his Scottish ancestry, her father-in-law would have none of it. No grandson or granddaughter of his was going to be born on St Patrick’s Day!

The 17th of March dawns and she, the saints preserve, goes into labour just after dinner.  The first-born grandson is quickly dropped off at the grandparents and excited hugs and good wishes abound.

‘Don’t you be having my grandchild on THIS day,’ warns the father-in-law.  How will he ever live it down if the grandchild enters this world on that Irish person’s day! He shudders to think about it! NOOOO! It will never do! She smiles affectionately at her father-in-law.

Her waters have broken and the contractions are seven minutes apart. It is now 10.30pm and oddly enough, she is feeling calm.

11 o’ clock! Hmmm, still an hour to go before midnight! The contractions are now five minutes apart. Still a while to go, the nurse predicts. Sipping a lump of ice, she periodically glances at the huge clock on the wall.

11.25pm and the contractions are now three minutes apart. Something tells her that this baby won’t come on St Patrick’s Day after all.

11.49pm and the contractions are getting intensive! Not surprising when they are now around two minutes apart. The nurses cheerfully smile and remain passive.

11.57pm and the contractions are seesawing between a minute and a half and two minutes. Her brows furrowed, she concentrates on her breathing.

11.59pm. ‘Get on with it!’ she thinks as she begins the repetitive ‘puff-pant’ exercise taught at the child-birth classes.

12. 00 Am. Her eyes are glued to the ‘second’s hand,’ which move slowly up. Tick, tick, tick! Unhurriedly, it sweeps past and the minute hand then moves to 12.01am!

She is mildly surprised at the gentle rush of expelled air and is only then aware that she had been holding her breath. Her laughter sounds almost hysterical with relief! Her father-in-law need not worry as it is now the 18th of March.

12.30am and the contractions are less than a minute apart. The room appears to be filling up with more nurses and they move around with a professional and assured air.

Her gowned and gloved gynaecologist arrives, assesses the situation and takes over. It is now 12.53 am.

‘You can push now,’ he says. Whaaat!! She continues to puff and pant and is startled when her husband’s face looms close to hers and he gently urges her to push.

She finds it disconcerting to change in midstream but tries to push. Holding her breath, she bears down with sudden determination.

‘Keep pushing,’ urges the doctor who looks up at her. Clamping her jaws, she shuts her eyes while bearing down. ‘The head has appeared! Give a really big push’ he encourages.

She feels like she is tearing in two but screws her already beetroot-red face up and grunts aloud. Much to the fascination of her husband, the veins are protruding on her forehead. Although alarmed, he is soon distracted when the doctor announces that the head is through.

It is 1.02 am and she is exhausted. “Just one last push,’ urges the doctor.

Taking a deep breath, she bears down and can barely hear the chorus of encouragements from the medical staff. She keeps the momentum up and is dismayed to hear that she needs to push again.

‘Give it all you got and keep going … you’re almost there,’ the doctor advises.

Once again she puffs out a drawn-out elongated and almost unearthly groan and hears a roaring in her head, before hearing the cheers, followed by, ‘it’s a boy!’

Sinking back into the propped up pillows and drawing in air, she is vaguely aware that she has another son. It is 1.07 am on the 18th March.

Ten years later!

Her father-in-law is researching the family tree and is both delighted and ambivalent when the search extends back to the family’s roots in the United Kingdom. Further research leads to ancestors in both Scotland and … !!! It can’t be!! Her father-in-law adjusts his spectacles, rubs his eyes and stares aghast!

IRELAND??? What rubbish!!! The McLoughlins are Scottish through and through! This is impossible! But it is there in bold print! The McLoughlins come from Ulster in Ireland!

‘God has punished you, Dad,’ her husband exclaims and then roars with laughter.

‘So your grandson would have done alright if he had actually been born on St Patrick’s Day,’ he adds.

‘It pays to be sure! To be shore, to be sure!’ he quips.

© Wendy Robinson 2014

In Ireland the inevitable never happens and the unexpected constantly occurs.  John Pentland Mahaffy

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,*
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
 ~ Robert Burns (To A Mouse) (*Gang aft agley means often go wrong)

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Review on The Monuments Men

George Clooney not only directed and starred in The Monuments Men, but he also co-wrote the screenplay with Grant Heslov.  The story is based on author Robert M Edsel’s non-fiction book, ‘The Monuments Men,’ which relates the true life quest of a band of men and women with expertise in art and cultural treasures, art frescoes and friezes, statues, monuments and buildings, and their attempts to save the historical and valuable artefacts that Hitler and the Nazis arrogantly absconded with. Their task was to track, protect or preserve, and return the stolen works to their original owners, guardians or caretakers.

The commission, granted and approved on June 23, 1943 by President F D Roosevelt, successfully saw the return of precious items to their legal owners and the rescue of priceless and irreplaceable artwork by some of the world’s greatest and renowned artists and artisans.

The Monuments Men Foundation exists today and their mission statement boldly proclaims the words, ‘For the Preservation of Art,’ and this movie not only honours the undertakings but also gives the audience a glimpse of the monumental task they faced just before the end of World War II.

George Clooney, playing the part of unit leader and art historian Frank Stokes,  put together a stellar cast ranging from his buddy Matt Damon as the Metropolitan Museum’s curator James Granger; Bill Murray as architect Richard Campbell; John Goodman as sculptor Walter Garfield; Bob Balaban as art promoter Preston Savitz; Jean Dujardin as French art dealer Jean Claude Clermont; Hugh Bonneville as the disgraced British art expert Donald Jeffries, and the only female star, our Cate Blanchette as French museum curator, Claire Simone.

In a Sydney Morning Herald report, leading lady Blanchette states that Clooney did not need to utilise his charm when he flew into Sydney to persuade her to take on the role of Claire Simone.  “The problem with George is that he’s so goddamn ugly,” she quips, while airily dismissing the entertainment industry’s accolade of ‘sexiest man alive,’ with a disparaging, “that was a decade ago.”

Blanchette’s role is based on Rose Valland, a French curator at Paris’ Galerie du Jeu de Paume museum. This very museum was used to house the Nazis’ stolen art works and Nazi leader Hermann Göring made 20 trips there to personally select over 700 pieces for his own private collection or to add to Hitler’s soon to be built Fuhrer Museum in Linz.

Germany’s famous Neuschwanstein Castle was also used as a storage facility for the stolen artworks and sculptures.

The outline of the story is the race against time to thwart Hitler’sNero Decree,’ should the Fuhrer die or the infamous Third Reich fall and the art experts also have to contend with the added fact that the Russians were also after the artworks.

While criticisms range from the movie’s supposed loose script, slow pace or its meandering plot, Clooney more than makes up for it by his attention to detail and the meticulous effort he gave to ensuring the recognisably famous art works looked as authentic as their real counterparts. Remember folks, there was no possibility that he could use or afford to risk the original art works in his movie.

He assigned the task of carving a replica of Michelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges, which is of Mary holding the infant Jesus, to an artist. Months of painstaking work went into it and the result was ‘amazing.’ Yet Clooney felt dissatisfied when the unforgiving camera light did not reflect the rich marble effect of the original work. The artist’s response to Clooney’s complaint of, ‘it’s really good but it’s not perfect,’ was ‘well, I’m not quite Michelangelo, and I got it!’

High-resolution colour printed onto fabric, was used to create replicas of paintings by Rembrandt, da Vinci, van Eyck, Vermeer and many other artists and was testimony to Clooney’s quest for as much authenticity as possible.

Rolling Stone Magazine paid tribute to his efforts with, ‘What Clooney has crafted in The Monuments Men is a movie about aspiration, about culture at risk, about things worth fighting for. I’d call that timely and well worth a salute.’

The movie garnered additional interest when, as recently as 13 December 2013, over 1,400 unidentified masterworks and paintings by Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse and other famous artists, were discovered in a Munich flat. Cornelius Gurlitt, an elderly man and son of a Nazi art dealer, had stockpiled the valuable works, almost half of which are considered stolen or extorted from private Jewish collectors. Estimated at US $1.35 billion, Clooney is hoping that the art works and others that are exhibited in museums around the world will be returned to their original owners or their descendants.

Some interesting facts to watch for:

George Clooney’s father, Nick Clooney, plays the older Frank Stokes towards the end of the film.

Co-writer Grant Heslov also makes an appearance as the medical unit’s field surgeon.

In the closing credits, the real Monuments Men can be seen in black and white photos with some of the artefacts they saved.

I found The Monuments Men entertaining, educational and enjoyable and in the end, the entertainment value is what the movie-going audience is after.

© Wendy Robinson 2014

A man has honour if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so. ~ Walter Lippmann

Homeless

I was humming along to Paul Simon’s haunting lament, ‘Homeless,’ and it brought to mind an incident that occurred a couple of years ago.

I can still recall being acutely uncomfortable while my family chuckled among themselves! I will begin by going back to the many times I kept seeing this homeless man, surrounded by at least ten plastic shopping bags filled with food and his worldly goods. I saw him once at the local library on a cold winter’s night and reasoned that he came in to ward off the chill and to enjoy the warmth. A lean, middle-aged man of perhaps five foot ten inches in height, with tousled, sandy coloured hair, he appeared to frequent the food hall at the major shopping centre. He would commandeer a table and would spread bread, a large tub of home brand margarine, a knife and an assortment of personal items on it.

Once again, it was a chilly night and our family had gathered with our piping hot plates or bowls of assorted food just after our respective shopping expeditions. Glancing over, I noted the homeless man with his usual array of buttered bread and couldn’t help comparing our respective meals.

Feeling quite blessed at our fare, I nevertheless felt uncomfortable while joining in the table conversation. Part way through the meal, I got up and walked over to the Thai food counter but felt dismay when I learnt that they had just shut their kitchen down. Looking around the food court, I noted that several food places had shut up and were counting their tills.

In desperation, I selected a food container filled with meat, vegetables and rice and took it back to the table. The family looked surprised and teasingly asked me if I was still hungry. Whispering, I implored them NOT to turn around and confessed that I had bought it for the man seated behind us. Arching his eyebrow, my son shook his head and my daughter smiled but they both outright refused to take the food over to the man. I then begged my husband to take it over, but he indulgently smiled and stated that since it was my idea, I should be the one to give it to him. No amount of pleading would budge my family.

Aware that the food was steadily getting cold, I finally got up and took the meal over. I awkwardly proffered the food and felt myself redden when the man audibly sniffed, raised his chin and turned his head away in a haughty manner.  If my family hadn’t been with me, I would have stalked out immediately in order to distance myself from the embarrassing situation. I had to instead, traipse back to our table to the highly amused looks of my family.

While they sympathised and also agreed that it was a good gesture, they firmly stated that they would not have bothered.

While I still cringe about the scenario and wished he had taken the food, I think I would have regretted more, not following my impulse to buy the homeless man a hot meal.

© Wendy Robinson 2014

Be bold and courageous! When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did. ~ H Jackson Brown

Dilemma

Do I inform him or do I ignore it and mind my own business?

I’ll begin by stating that three generations of males have all died of heart attacks in their early 40s, in my family.  That meant that three generations of children were left fatherless and although I’m not sure how old my grandmother was, nor how much younger or older my great-grandmother was when she was widowed, I do know that my mother was only in her 30s when my father died.

My mother was therefore quite strict in ensuring my siblings and I ate proper meals and that we indulged in cakes or sweets only on rare occasions and even then, we were limited to a single, solitary slice. Any request for a second piece was met with a stern stare and the words, ‘you can go and play outside.’ I marvel that my mother never used the word, ‘no,’ but her look alone conveyed the response to our requests.

I now thank my mother for her vigilance in ensuring we never developed a taste for sugary treats. Don’t get me wrong, I love Tiramisu, a baked cheesecake or a sticky-date pudding, but I find I can only tolerate a small piece when I do indulge.

I can’t however abide chocolate. You’ve read that correctly! I can walk past a chocolate shop and not drool and I only discovered recently that my siblings don’t like chocolate either. Imagine that, all of us don’t like chocolate and that was an amazing discovery as I thought I was the only one in my family who didn’t.

When we approached our late 30s, we each informed our respective doctors of the generational family health issue. I also read up on the signs and symptoms to watch out for in terms of heart problems.

Knowing the physical symptoms and or signs associated with potential heart issues, I was dismayed when I noticed one of the signs on a young physiotherapist. He had a single, diagonal crease on both his ear lobes. I initially dismissed it by telling myself that he probably squashed his ears while sleeping, but the following times I saw him, the lines were still there.

Hence my quandary on whether I should broach the subject or simply ignore it! The mental arguments volleyed between, my non-qualification in all medical facts and whether I myself would appreciate someone bringing the fact to my attention should I have had the symptom when I was the same age. The arguments raged in my head for some months after I had finished my physiotherapy treatment. It was easier to forget when I did not need treatment.

Just recently however, I needed to see the physiotherapist and was once again, reminded of my dilemma.  I pondered on some scenarios as he is an avid surfer and also a keen cyclist. How would I feel if he should have an attack while cycling on a highway or even worse, surfing way out in the ocean far from any medical assistance? Would it sit well on my conscience if he did have an attack and I had kept the knowledge to myself?

I then researched the medical facts and discovered that the potential likelihood of heart problems increases by 70% in younger people if a crease or diagonal line is seen on the earlobes. Printing the facts out, I then made a decision to tell my physiotherapist.

When the time came however, I was so nervous that I just about pushed the papers into his hands while trying to quickly explain everything and then came away wondering if I had made any sense at all. I can still see his bemused but surprised face looking kindly at me but he didn’t say much while I fled out the door.

Agonising over my action, I had to confess to my family and they simply shook their heads in mock dismay. What were they going to do about their wayward family member and her questionable actions!

Relating the facts to a friend, I felt better when she pointed out that I had done the deed out of concern and compassion and that she agreed with my decision as her family also has a history of heart problems. She lost her father at four years of age, while I was seven when I lost mine.

You’re reading this now and are either shaking your head with disbelief or endorsing my action. Which is it? Put yourself in my place and let me know your opinion. I am honestly interested and would welcome your comments.

© Wendy Robinson 2014

Sympathy sees and says, ‘I’m sorry.’ Compassion sees and says, ‘I’ll help.’ When we learn the difference, we will make a difference. ~ Unknown

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