Anzac Reflection 2018

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The air was warmer than in previous years, this drought continues with no end in sight. The ground crunched under our feet, not from frost but from the dry, baked earth that has seen little rain over the summer months. The whispered greetings as we waited to start were about how dry it is and the old timers remarking they haven’t seen it so bare for many decades.

Down the street, in the dim morning dawn a train rumbles through the town, past where once a railway station once stood. Its whistles blow with an air of prosperity as more black gold is hauled east to the port. Those same tracks carried our troops to port a century ago. Families gave one last long hug on that platform and waved a tearful farewell as sons, fathers and brothers were sent across the oceans to fight the big war.

Some returned, others lost their lives on the battle fields of the western front.

The memorial in the local park a constant reminder of those who went. Saunders and Stead Killed in Action and never returning to the black soil plains, the smell of eucalypt, the blue skies and open land of home. Delve who died of wounds, fighting with desire to return to help turn the sods and reap many more harvest with his family at home.

Bass, Campion, Davies, Martin, Pryor, Sullivan arriving home to the heroes welcomes to live with ghosts of unspeakable acts and brutality beyond what humans should ever endure.

The story of farewells on the rail platform, the deaths, the losses, the angst and returning ghosts continue across decades. And continue today.

At the village Anzac Day 2018 ceremonies over 300 people paused to remember and thank those who have gave their lives,  so we can continue to live in freedom and choice.

In his commemorative address John Lyle reminded us of these sacrifices – from the 300, 000 who fought on the Western Front, to World War 2 where many Prisoner of War returned home without any post war support and were just told ‘to get on with it”.

People at home could not, and probably still don’t comprehend the brutality and slaughter they witnessed. He reminded us of other wars and battles, including families who still wait for news from those serving in current conflicts.

As the brass band filled the autumn skies with music and we gave our thanks through prayer and hymn the Australian landscape around us continued its chatter. The galahs squawked overhead, the trains whistled, the cars zoomed by. Life and choices we continue to enjoy.

Our youth perspective confirmed these brave men and women of our past are role models for future generations, helping provide the freedom and opportunity that we can tend to for granted.

They are, Breanna said “A link to the past that helps shape our nation and the future”.

In the quiet morning light in Curlewis NSW on April 25th 2018 villagers – young and old – came together to remember. The following poem, read at the dawn service describing why we do so eloquently.

ANZAC REFLECTION

Reflecting on one hundred years, since ANZACS first became

There’s much that now is different, but much that stays the same

 There’s still a price for liberty, so we can choose our path

There still are those who go to war and pay on our behalf

 There still are those who sacrifice and leave loved -ones behind

So we can have the right to vote and speak what’s on our mind

 There still are those who face a foe and fight in foreign lands

In hopes that we’ll be terror free and safe from evil hands

 There still are those who take a wound and live with daily pain

Their battle is a lifelong thing; their price for freedom’s gain

 There still are those who give their lives and break their happy home

There still are grieving boys and girls – and partners all alone

 So keep in mind our wounded vets and families of the lost

They’re still the ones who bear the bulk of freedom’s daily cost

 Remember freedom has a price – we’re in our soldiers’ debt

Remember to remember – lest we all forget

 by Ian Coate

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+ thank you to all who helped with the 2 Anzac ceremonies at Curlewis – Councillor Colleen Fuller, Peter Boem & Phoebe Neil, Curlewis Public School, Curlewis Bush Fire Brigade, Hunter River Lancers, Gunnedah Shire Band, all who presented reflections or prayers, read the ode and finally thank you to the small Curlewis Anzac Committee.

Sunday Luncheon

The old hall stands in the centre of the town. Over the years the floor has been swept by debutantes, the dust stirred by the beat of music and washed with copious amounts of alcohol and drinks. Old timers reminisce about the regular dances across the district mid-last century – from Curlewis to Nea, Breeza to Spring Ridge and many other halls in between. The floor is perfect for a bush dance, with many a heel and toe having been stepped out across its boards.

In recent years it has been the function centre for local school presentations, town meetings, an outpost of the shire library, regular boot scooters and fundraisers such as trivia nights in the dead of winter that then took days to warm the bones to some semblance of comfort.

But the laughter, friendships and memories will warm you for a life time.

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This hall, costing 5000 pounds to build was opened on March 21 1958 with a Grand Opening Ball. History tells us it’s steel framed with a brick frontage. It has a 72 by 42-foot dance floor and 34 by 12-foot stage. The project to build it was one of the biggest public ventures taken on by a district centre – taking two years of community effort, fund raising and voluntary work.

It truly is a community resource built and cherished by the village.

On Sunday I enjoyed the company of friends at this treasured centrepiece of our town. The Gunnedah Red Cross held its major fundraiser, a gala day complete with a fashion parade in our hall. What a glorious way to spend a Sunday.

The old hall stood tall as it was once more filled with chatter and camaraderie. The kitchen clattered with food preparations, the yard shone with prized vintage cars, the edges packed with small markets showcasing their wares. And then as a finale to a delicious meal we enjoyed a parade as the latest fashions promenaded across the stage, inspiring all to update or add to their winter wardrobe.

It was rewarding to contribute to the fund-raising efforts of The Australian Red Cross who provide a range of services and programmes including international aid and  humanitarian law advocacy, migration support, emergency management, blood donation via the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, and community services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, youth, families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.

As a local it was warming to watch our hall being used and enjoyed by both villagers and visitors. I’m sure it too enjoyed the chats, laughter and smiles as much as we did.

 

Want to know more?

Australian Red Cross – www.redcross.org.au.

Gunnedah Branch Red Cross – www.gunnedah.nsw.gov.au/index.php/business/business-support/business-directory/Other/4339-red-cross-gunnedah-branch

Fashion Parade by Enchanted Emporium and Riley’s Furniture and Carpets – See the lovely clothing that showcased on their facebook page – www.facebook.com/flowersballoonsgunnedah.

Taking time to understand mental well being

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“He says he is suffering from depression” she scoffed. “I don’t know what he would be unhappy about?”

I opened my mouth to respond, to clarify that depression isn’t about being unhappy but I couldn’t find the words to explain it. I just nodded and tried to change the subject. That was a few years ago.

Awareness around our mental health and well-being is improving with quite a bit of funding being provided for awareness campaigns, research and education.

But there is still a stigma and misunderstanding.

I have to admit that I have been in the denial and misinterpreting camp, though I have been willing to know more, understand better. I have read, I have listened, I have wanted to empathise.

Today I had a light bulb flash, a serendipitous moment that made sense. I wanted to share with you.

Why do we talk about our physical health and not our mental health? Why do we split them into two?

If I asked you “how are you?” most of you would think about your physical state like –

“I’ve got a bit of a back ache today” or “the arthritis is playing up, must be a change in the weather coming” or “my shoulders are aching a bit, must have been the way I slept”

And that’s what I expect the answer to be.

What if…we start to think about our wellness as our whole self? Mind and body. They are not separate, they function as one yet we tend to think about them as two separate ‘conditions”.

Our mind is a powerful element that can affect our physical state.

Our physical state, likewise affects our mind.

Did you just go aha? I did. (or you might already know all this and it is me that needed to catch up)

I know that when I am stressed I get headaches, I am tired and exhausted.

Stress is a state of mind – headache physical.

I broke my ankle 2 years ago. The hardest part about that mending was trying to manage the sadness and feeling of helplessness as the ankle healed.

Broken ankle physical – helplessness a state of mind.

See where I am going? They went together to make me.

This morning I attended a short course about Mental Health. In 90 minutes Kate from the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program provided a clear and for me, a different perspective about mental health.

She spoke about mental wellbeing (note I didn’t use mental health!) as a scale or continuum from not coping to coping well. All of us move along this scale, its normal. Where we are on the scale depends on our physical well-being, our ability to manage and juggle what is happening in our life and how much we are carrying the load of someone else, those around us whether family, friends or work colleagues.

Check out this great clip – Mental Health Wellness Continuum – it was another aha moment for me.

The session also included some snippets about how to ask the right questions to help others, where to go to get more help either for self or those we are concerned about.

And then some gobsmacking realities –

  • 25% of what our GPs see in a day is mental health.
  • 8 people a day die of suicide in Australia…eight. 6 of these are men. That is 2.5 times more than people die on our roads. I am still digesting this one.
  • The more rural and remote we get the greater the number of suicides and risk factors. There is also a greater lack of help and support opportunities. Gosh.

My take home I want to share with you is this:

Don’t wait for special awareness days to ask those close to you R U OK?

Don’t dismiss their physical symptoms with a light hearted “I’ve got a Panadol”.

Don’t say “have a few wines or a beer and it will be alright, it will pass”.

Take time to listen. Ask. Show you care.

E V E R Y D A Y.

And make the effort to learn more about mental wellbeing and how to help others. It could save someone’s life. It might save your own. We are all part of the same village, we should look out for each other.

If you are an employer, big or small, make mental well being part of your Work Health and Safety program.

Start by checking out the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program website. There are loads of tools, stories and contacts to get you started

Thank you Kate from RAMHP and the Gunnedah Community College. It was a day of discovery.

Image credit: © Can Stock Photo / focalpoint

Forever Diamonds

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He had snatched her hat as he ran past and hurled it over the convent fence, planting it firmly in the nun’s garden. She risked a week of detention to salvage her school hat and as she tramped back to her friends, planting the hat firmly on her red hair she asked “Who is that horrible boy?”

Her opinion didn’t change for some time, despite the urging of her friend Mary, that horrible boy’s sister. He tried to coax her to the cinema but she went with friends. He offered her a lift home but she preferred to walk.

He was a patient man, he could wait.

On weekend leave from the Army he arrived at the local football game in his father’s jeep. She spied this young man in uniform, his blonde curly hair sticking out from under his hat. That horrible boy was starting to look appealing.

He asked to take her home. She hesitated, still.

“Sing me Temptation or I will you take you home” he commanded of her. Their fate was sealed as she climbed into the jeep and a journey of many decades began.

“Tell the little red head she can write to me” he told his sister as he returned to service, with little certainty this would happen. When a letter did arrive several weeks later, simply signed “from your ardent admirer” he did not believe this could be the one he had hoped for. It took several more letters to convince him.

It was a filibuster romance – she nursing in Newcastle, he completing service in the Army. He surprised her with visits, sweet talking the matron into allowing her out unescorted with a soldier. For three years or more they saw each other only occasionally. Each time the attraction grew. They became friends before lovers.

He was a patient man, he could wait.

Until neither could not wait any longer. The approvals were given – Clem agreed to the union and Ellie busied herself with the planning of her daughter’s wedding.

On April 7th 1958 that horrible boy married his red-head. It was Easter Monday, 8 am.

She met him at the altar in a Lilly of the Valley silk and Chantilly lace gown that she had designed herself, her cousins Judith and Rosalie by her side. He only had eyes for her as he waited, bolstered by his brother Pat and brother-in-law Bill.

The autumn sun glistened in the early morning, weaving its magical spell as two became one. Their hands joined to walk together as best friends for the next sixty years.

The wedding was celebrated with a reception in the Town Hall before they borrowed his father’s ute to honeymoon in Port Macquarie. After a few short days of surfing in the ocean waves – which they were never to do again – they settled into wedded life with his parents at Laurella.

60 years later their hands are still joined, their eyes still yearn for each other, their love still unwavering.

Sixty years. Six decades. 720 months. 21 900 days.

A lifetime. Together. Best friends.

They have rejoiced at the birth of their nine children, though life would have been chaotic with 5 under five and only a ute as the family car.

They have celebrated the birth of 25 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren (so far!).

Together they have had the joy of purchasing a new home and filling it with love and laughter til it burst at the seams. The door has always been open to their own children and many others that sought the comfort of the loving family surrounds provided by Neville and Anne.60weddinganniversary_oakstreet

They have shared the happiness of watching their youngest graduate from university, the first for the family.

They support each other in times of sadness, accidents and illness. They share the news side by side, they grieve arm in arm, they journey through the tough united. Their faith the staple rock of support.

Strength, they say comes from communication and talking to each other. Their only advice is to take the time to be best friends and enjoy the same things.

For 60 years each morning is a new day – disagreements are left with the setting sun. They wake hand in hand as those morning sunbeams of their wedding day still weave the magic of love around them. Unconquerable and enduring.

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Congratulations Neville and Anne. Diamonds is most fitting for you both.

Practising Resilience

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Staying cool – me in the summer of 1966/67. It must be on my grandmothers verandah – the pot plant in the corner is a clue!

It was heavenly. To the extent it almost took my breath away. After weeks of heat, the cooling change that swept from the south has been a most welcome reprieve.

If only for a short time.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the demise of our home air conditioner. While I am happy to report (so far) I haven’t had the third white good failure I am still without an air conditioner. It has been brutal and humbling.

Today the temperature has plummeted to a cooling 24 degrees celsius (75 F) at 11am (instead of around 35C/95F). There is even snow being reported in the high country to the south. My head is clear, my energy uplifted and perspective on life has reset to a positive course.

It is astounding how being hot drains one’s vigour and sends your drive plummeting to a level of boiling sloth.

I have tried to remain positive and upbeat, though I think DH may disagree. I kept telling myself that there are hundreds of people who do not have the luxury of an air conditioner, or cannot afford the electricity to run it, I’m not alone. That helped for all of 5 minutes before my resolve took another negative hit.

I remember when I was for pregnant, nearly 27 years ago. We were young and broke and air conditioners were still considered a luxury. I survived without one then, I can do this now…surely?

It has been a learning time as I attempt to be more resilient in the summer furnace. I have learnt or re-learnt a few things about keeping cool over these last few weeks, that I can share with you.

The opening and closing of doors and curtains around the house has become a daily ritual. Open in the cooler times of days to allow any zephyr of breeze to flow through the house, close in the peak of the day to shut out the brutal heartbreaking heat that rides on the summer westerlies.

The routine of each day also changes. I have become a walking temperature forecast and can recite what the temperature is going be each hour, having studied 3 weather apps for the day and week ahead. I plan my day around the what needs to be done in the cooler (not cool, just cooler) parts of the day versus what does not need to be done until about March when this summer will come to an end, or my air-conditioner is fixed.

Between about 3 and 8 pm little is possible as the living area turns into Satan’s boudoir. The better options are reading a book or watching the tennis and cricket – but that is what summer is all about isn’t it?

I had to search for a different novel to read. While I was comfortable under an air conditioner a story about the struggles of country Victoria in the summer drought of the late 1800’s was an interesting read. It became a little to close to my own experience post mouse-in-airconditioner and a novel set in the Arctic circle has been a worthier escape.

Dining outside in the evening is a pleasant experience. It has been a necessity for us as the house is like a mini fire of hell from about 6 pm. I tried to make light of it by saying “we will dine alfresco tonight, by the fountain” where in actual fact we have dined on the shady back lawn with the garden sprinkler cooling our feet.

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Keeping cool outside – January 1963 style

In my search through family photos I even found a pic of my grandmother, father and aunt escaping the heat near a water tank – outside was always cooler than in. the look on their faces says it all!

 

 

Wet towels are currently a necessary part of the wardrobe. Some respite can be felt if you wet your hair and then sit in front of the fan with a wet towel across your shoulders and/or your feet. In the heat the towel is dry in about 10 minutes but the short respite welcoming. Wet and repeat.

Buying an expensive fan does not provide you with better cooling. When its hot, its hot and no fan on this planet will be better than another. The fan that offered an additional misting function along with “new technology” cooling effects for about $150 did not blow the hot air around the room any better than the $20 pedestal fan from the reject shop. This has been an expensive lesson to learn!

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I have discovered that its OK to break out your inner child and run through the sprinkler on the back lawn. I have many childhood memories of playing in the yard with a sprinkler, or a home-made slip and slide.

When we first moved to the farm at Curlewis we had an above ground pool. It was bit of makeshift pool, with no fencing or landscaping, it had no filter or cleaning mechanism so after about a week it was time to drain and refill.

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Our pool. It must have been hot as my dad is in this shot – he rarely ventured into the water.

Water was abundant and cheap in those times and the routine of emptying overnight and filling the next morning became part of summer fun. We whiled away many summer hours in that pool, plopped in the backyard for easy access. Others around us all seemed to have similar in the yard – one friend had an old iron water tank cut off at about a metre, another used her dad’s fishing tinnie as a useful ‘pool’ to lay during the summer afternoon. We were inventive and unrestricted by today’s safety regulations.

Over the years my children discovered the joy of a hose during the summer months. Being held hostage by the air conditioner inside is not an enjoyable experience for a band of energetic children or the parent – a simple hose, sprinkler and large container can provide hours of fun.

I have survived, so far. It has given me time to search through old family photos to find past glimpses of fun under the sprinkler, but maybe that was just an excuse to sit longer under my mother’s functioning air conditioner!

I try not to call Air Conditioner guy Dave every day but I search for hope that the beast that taunts me from my living room wall will be functioning soon.

I wish that ‘soon’ will be this week, cross your fingers for me

Happens in threes…

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I love front loader washing machines. I know others that don’t – DH even prefers twin tubs.

Yes you can still buy the twin tub washing machine. On a recent trip to the local electrical store with Miss22 we spotted one – she had to ask what it was. When I explained that you wash in one side then manually take the clothes out, put them in the spin side, spin, rinse, spin, repeat she was a little gobsmacked at the idea of it! Really? People still do that?

It is quite manual work but less things break, though I do remember overflowing my first twin tub a few times as I chased the sock pairs around the house.

After years of top loader machines, I find front loaders are easier on the clothes, create less pill and use less water. Sure, you need to change your washing habits as once that door is locked you cannot open to throw that last minute find into the mix.

Or as I recently experienced once that door is locked it may not open again.

It is a terrible sinking feeling when the machine beeps its completion, you nonchalantly bend to open the door…and it doesn’t budge.

I check the lock light has gone off and try again

I turn it off at the wall, count to 60 and try again

I turn it back on, jiggle the controls and try again

I run a short rinse and spin cycle thinking it just got itself confused – I know how that feels – and try again

I rock the whole machine and try again

I pull on the handle and realise how plasticky and fragile it is and try again

I walk away, have a coffee and try again

I start to list all the pieces of clothing now a prisoner in the machine and try again

Nothing, nadda, zip. No offer of bail, no small sign the damp prisoners will be released anytime soon, they are locked up tight and starting to sweat.

A phone call to the local washing machine repairer puts me at ease

“Oh it happens a lot, Paul knows how to unlock it, I will get him to call round. Wait for him, don’t be like the guy last week that had his children’s school clothes in there and took to it with a crowbar. Just wait for Paul”

I was beginning to know how that poor guy felt! At least I have other clothing that I can use.

Washing machine repairer Paul bailed out the clothes with a bit of packing tape – yes highly technical stuff. A replaced part, a week of waiting and we are back on track.

Washing wise.

I froze as I glanced at the bill stuck to the fridge this morning. Things happen in threes – especially with household white goods.

Number 2 struck last night.

I had enjoyed a slow relaxing summer day in the cool of the air-conditioned lounge. It was a Netflix day as the summer January sun makes anything outdoor unbearable.

At about 7 last night, when it was still high 30 degrees outside I could smell something burning – crispy, electrical, smouldering burning. I smelt the stove, nothing. Turned off all the power points, nothing. Checked the roof outside to see if there was any smoke coming out, nothing.

Then there was a loud bang and a flash of red and orange from the air conditioner.

Oh crap

If you think having your clothes held captive in the washing machine is heart stopping imagine what the thought of no air conditioner at the peak of our inland summer feels like.

It is dead…and so is the mouse that thought camping on one of the internal power boards was a good idea.

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Thank heavens air conditioner guy Dave came to the rescue first thing this morning. I only hope the factory that sells the parts has returned from their Christmas break, though it might be a long, hot week ahead.

 

I now look at the weather forecast with different eyes, scanning for how hot it really will be rather than an inquisitive view to see if we will break more records this week.

A funny weather app that I discovered isn’t so funny when you need a wet towel around your neck while sitting directly under the fan.

I usually shop in the morning – I am now planning for the hottest part of the day and I will take my time.

I am starting to plan car trips – at least the car is cool.

I am scanning movie times – a second rate flick in an air conditioned cinema is worth the few hours of comfort, mid-afternoon.

I am listing friends and family to visit, in the afternoons.

I am hoping air conditioner guy brings the parts by the end of the week.

I am dreading number 3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image credits:

© Can Stock Photo / dumayne;

© Can Stock Photo/godruma;

© Can Stock Photo/stuartmiles

WTForcast app

Almond Bread

Time moves on.

Lives change.

It is inevitable.

In the blink of an eye Christmas is with us again.

Christmas time seems to bring with it more memory clouds that most other months of the year. Im not sure whether its because I realise another year has past me by or whether it’s a time when family traditions are bought back to life.

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Our Christmas tree still has marks of my children growing, ornaments lovingly made at preschool and school still adorn the tree. Their childhood stockings are laid beside the tree, now in readiness for their home comings soon.

 

A visit to my childhood home is filled with many memories and now a touch of emptiness. The same Christmas door wreath welcomes all visitors, family and friends. The heights of the grandchildren and their pets, marked along the door jam remind us of the years, evoking glimpses of the past and stories starting with “remember when…”.

 

We are guaranteed these remain the same. It is with some comfort that I know this.

And Mum’s Almond Bread.

It heralds Christmas.

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I have never attempted to bake it, and I haven’t for this article. I am not sure I can fold the love of a grandmother’s hug into the loaf as much as my mum can.

But I can share the recipe with you.

There are a few steps and you need to plan ahead to allow the loaf to cool for a few days.

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The loaf, allow 2 days for it to cool

But it is so worth it!

It also makes a great gift, wrapped and sealed with a Christmas bow.

 

ALMOND BREAD

3 egg whites                      1 cup plain flour

½ cup castor sugar          125 grams whole unblanched almonds

and then….

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form.

Then gradually add sugar, beat until dissolved.

Fold in sifted flour, then almonds. (I think this is where the grandmother love is added too!)

Spoon into greased 20cm x 10cm loaf tin

Bake in moderate oven 30-40 minutes

Cool. Wrap in foil & set aside for 2 days.

Using a very sharp knife cut into wafer thin slices

Place slices on oven trays and bake in a slow oven for 45 minutes, or until lightly toasted and crisp.

Store in an air tight container.

TIP: My mum adds extra almonds, as she likes the slices packed full. The recipe may work with pistachios too?

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You are welcome 😊

And happy christmas