Monday, 27 May 2013

Lights, Camera, Action

Even though the fire has caused so much chaos - can you believe Hanworth House can be such a priceless backdrop for one visionary photographer and one mighty energetic group of volunteers?

HH must have provided a safe and secure haven for many women who preceded us over many years.  So her story provided a great platform for another story.

Capturing this was left to the mega talented photographer Jennifer Mendez.

Closely supported by her amazing team

Jennifer Mendez Photography

And spicing up the team was the equally amazing ND - organiser extraordinarie and her skilled and able assistant Ellen.

And you have a recipe for Saturday success -  only one thing missing - a fabulously worthy cause - enter Womens Legal Service - and we have a photo shoot full of energy, enthusiasm, and ethics as well!

Me and my crutches popped in to say hello

But happy to report the team were doing perfectly brilliantly without me!

Remember I told you about my long involvement with Zonta ? Well the Womens Legal Service (WLS) has been one of the worthy recipients of some of our support over the last 2 years. Zonta supports initiatives which advance the status of women worldwide. So WLS is a perfect fit for Zonta's support and our larger community should support them too.

Of course the Green Lady was perfectly willing to offer herself for a photo shoot (being a media tart that she is and all!)

And can you believe my dismay when I saw this being captured on film - who decided to make a cameo appearance along with these two 1950s glamour girls?

Who would have guessed! I write up the Green Cosy for the Green Lady once in the previous post and out she comes - thinking she is somewhat of the HH superstar edging her way in front of competing props to join the two glamourous photo shoot stars to have her own moment of fame!  Think she will forever be called Superstar Cosy HH as I feel we might be seeing more of her as she paves her way towards the first logie for Prop enhancement over the coming years.  Never put this Baby (cosy) in the cupboard!

And as if she was not brazen enough - She bought this partner in crime with her!  But seriously, how many women must have come to live at Hanworth over the years, as victims of domestic violence, family separation, sickness or poverty? How many of them would have benefited from the the HH haven? How many would have taken soothing tea from this pot? And how many would have been able to use services from WLS if available back then?

I think it is amazing that over 100 volunteers work to provide legal advice during the week at this Brisbane service - many women assisted are from rural areas -  and over 5000 women per year are assisted by WLS in gaining access to a justice system.

The Green Lady herself behaved perfectly as she basked in the glorious Autumn sun

How clever was the WLS team to find a green car to match our green lady? Organiser Extraordinarie took me for a spin!

Of course my poser friends wasted no time using this wonderful prop to the max ( I couldn't say no either!)

For those of you interested in the details - it is a Falcon XP Coupe from 1964

Even the garden put its best bloom forward

And what about this magnificent bush of loveliness? I was going to pull this "weed" out a few weeks ago and, suddenly, from nowhere it was covered in yellow splendour  - astonishing!

So now this bush is on the "list of weeds I have decided to keep"!

The passionfruit vine made the "keepers" list too

So all in all, a wonderfully successful day due largely to a sensational team and HH was thrilled to host them

They gave me champagne to say thank you (how did they ever know I had a bit of a soft spot for bubbles?) - but look what also greeted me when I returned to my little office on Monday...

Thank you WLS - what a beautiful gesture! You are a superb team, doing a superb job, and HH is so excited about her cameo appearance in your newest media campaign.

I will see if I can beg, borrow (or steal) one of the magnificent professional shots taken on the day - I saw the first cut tonight - they are divine, divine, divine.  I will see if they will release one of the first shots exclusively to Heart Hanworth House followers - stay tuned!

x HH

Thursday, 23 May 2013


Today is a sad day - 23 May 2013 - a year since my beautiful mother was taken from us. But she will live on forever in our hearts and in the halls of Hanworth House, which is being restored in her honour.

This post is a tribute to Mamma HH - someone everyone loved and who touched your life from the moment you met her. Maybe Mary Weinholt felt the same way 100 years ago when she bought Hanworth House in honour of her mother.

This is the story of my mother.

Romana Gabrielli's story began in 1938 in Pula, Italy. These were formative years of great hardship, war, little food, no money and maybe then, little hope. A young family was displaced from its tenuous and insecure first home, searching freedom and a better life by passaging through several United Nations refugee camps, simultaneously glued by a great will to stay together as a family.

A long voyage, stark of comfort, brought this young family to Australia- we remember her story of the first time she saw a banana as she travelled via Africa, longing for a taste, yet no one had any money to buy one. Arriving in Australia in 1950 with her brother and parents, accompanied by a few possessions in ragged cardboard suitcases, bewildered by expectation and hope.  Yet she immediately set to the task of making good a new life, and that she certainly did.

Educated at St Stephens’ School in Brisbane, she shone with merit in many fields. Her talent in art even gained the eye of future iconic artist Margaret Olley, who offered her tutorage, but circumstances prevented her from following this opportunity at the time.

My favourite glass and oil painting by mum

Through her adolescence and early adulthood, Romana continued to take great care of her wonderful mother (my still bike-riding, lawn mowing 98 year old Nonna) who remains full of life and completely and uniquely irreplaceable. On so many occasions, she spent long afternoons and evenings working with her mother at the National hotel in Queen St, gladly and selflessly helping her mother with her work. In fact both mother (and later her mother in law) were very significant to her.

Romana could have been anything she wanted:  she was smart, logical, industrious, convincing, and, sometimes downright conniving. She was stubborn too! Her abilities and people skills gained her employment easily, including the Queensland Catering Company,  Electric Power Transmission and the Italian consulate in Brisbane (where she was constantly dismayed by the antics of the diplomats!)

Romana was quite the 1950s glamour girl though she would  have been horrified to have been described as such - behold these gorgeous shots :
Getting ready to go to Cloudland in 1950s

Coolangatta Beach

Romana married John Preston in 1960, and surely remains on the short list for the most beautiful and radiant bride there ever was or will be, She made her own dress and that of her bridesmaids and it was evident her creative streak was continuing into dressmaking.


Reception at the Bellevue Hotel August 1960

Was it coincidence (or fate?) that the 3 landmarks (National Hotel, Bellevue Hotel and Cloudland) - all demolished landmarks in Brisbane were each mentioned in the article written about Hanworth House after the fire

And you can see evidence of these three places in the photos and stories above. What does this mean?

I came along a few years later - being quite the cutest baby that ever lived (maybe a little biased!)
Here are both of us revelling in the opportunity to be a mum. Motherhood was Romana's most masterful talent. My brother followed a year after I did.

Not content with art and dressmaking, Romana made another mark as an extremely talented cook early on, winning the 1967 national White Wings Womens Weekly Bake Off Competition and gaining national acclaim.

Just look at those hairstyles - Mad Men would be so proud!   For a short time, she even hosted a television cooking show in Brisbane, which could have led to a highly successful career, but her love and care of two young children took precedence at that time, and she never looked back

Mamma HH  became an incredible dressmaker, winning the praise and admiration of many, and a  host of prizes and awards for her designs and outfits.  
I remember us clapping and cheering so loudly at Twin Towns in the late 1980’s when she  won the supreme award as Dressmaker of the Year, one of many accolades she so well deserved. 
Mamma HH filled our house, with art and handicrafts of varied style and presence, which dance with vibrant colours of her past, present and future. What she could not make simply did not exist!
My father was a police sergeant in the Queensland Police force (incidentally Hanworth House was built the same year the Qld Police Force was established) and was transferred to Cooloongatta in the early 1970s, moving the family of 4 soon after to Banora Point.
Mamma HH nurtured a wonderful warm home, where countless special memories were created and harboured. She gained employment as a legal then school secretary at Banora Point Primary School where she remained for over 25 years.

Then, well past her 60s, when most of her peers were contemplating retirement, Mamma HH decided  a career in real estate was the way to go, simultaneously helping my brother build his business whilst carving out a reputation for honesty and genuine care unequalled in this community. She continued to work full time until she died in her early 70s.

Grandchildren came, first Miss HH and then much later grandsons whom Mamma HH loved and nurtured since their births. They will further ensure her breaths continue to inhabit our world.

And, almost 9 months after she died, a beautiful baby girl again, a constant reminder of new life - Niece HH who would have thrilled and fascinated Mamma HH to no end

My mother was the most beautiful person ever - selfless, kindhearted, hardworking, generous and loving . And did I say stubborn? She taught me lessons one can never learn in books – she never shaped my future only supported my choices.

My wedding preparation was nothing short of unfathomable. She made hundreds and hundreds of roses to adorn the church

But she also handpainted every cake box and hymn book, crocheted (when she had never crocheted before!) every bomboniere, and made the bridal dress, 4 bridesmaid dresses, her outfit and that of her mother and even all the lingerie and shoes when we could find none which would measure up to her high and exacting standards.

Mamma HH was the perfect embodiment of what a daughter, sister, wife, grandmother and mother should be.  If you met her once you could never let her go.  

On the night before her celebration of life, my schoolfriend and I cut every rose from those hundreds she made for my wedding to give to those who attended her funeral.

It was little wonder we had none left on that day.  How lucky was I to have her in my blessed life?

Hanworth House deserves to be restored, despite any obstacle placed in our way. Ovarian cancer tried to keep her down - but she fought it bravely and decisively until she could no more.  She would tell me not to let a fire at Hanworth keep me down - and it won't so long as I use her as my guiding light. Hanworth House is of the stature that only a home which is a Grand Lady and a mother who is a Grand Lady can attest. Bringing them together is my privilege.

x HH
Forever rest in peace, my darling Mamma HH
        9/11/1938 - 23/5/2012

To watch the video of Romana - A Beautiful Life click here