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

Half time oranges and Tee Vee Snacks

The crisp dark night took me back. The scent of the frost settling on the orange tree picked me up and gently eased me back into the old lounge with its well-used green chairs, open fire and stripe shag pile carpet.countryhorizons_oranges1

State of Origin football night was a family affair, complete with oranges at half time. After a hearty meal of meat and three veg the first of the children would get a seat on the lounge, the last spreading on the floor in front of the fire. Mum with her knitting and dad commanding the TV to watch the weather and then settle for the football. No remote control to flick through the stations – but we only had two channels to choose from so it wasn’t such a chore.

Out the front of the house was a prolific orange tree, the envy of many visitors and travellers. Every year we waited with patience for the first frost as the fruit always seemed to be sweeter once the bite of Jack Frost heralded in the winter air. We enjoyed fruit on tap for months.

At half time in the footy we were sent out in the bitter dark cold to grab a few oranges off the tree for our dessert. Mum would sit with a towel in her lap and lovingly peel the oranges to share as we settled in for the finish of the game. She had a knack of keeping the peel in one long length that snaked to her lap as she unwrapped nature’s vitamin C offering.

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No wifi, no checking social media status, no idea what our friends or other family were doing at that very moment. We didn’t care. We were engrossed in capturing the sweet juice as it slipped down our chins, savouring the sweet flavours that tingled our buds in the warmth of our family home and writing memories for later.

 

That warm family lounge sparks another jolt in the memory banks and one I still recall every time I see Tee Vee Snacks in the shopping aisle. To this day they are a special treat, almost a forbidden sweetness. My dad had a routine many years ago of buying the afternoon newspaper and a box of Tee Vee Snacks on his way home of an evening. For those who don’t know they are a plain crunchy biscuit, about bite size that has been dipped in dark chocolate. Just enough chocolate to satisfy the taste buds and allow you to think you haven’t been too naughty!CHN_0209_tvsnacks3

My dad would wait until we went off to bed before settling in to enjoy the quiet of the evening while reading his paper and savouring the Tee Vee Snack biscuits…except for the last few. I never knew whether he left them on purpose or he had his fill but there was always a few left. Left for my brothers and I to sneak in and find the next morning. We felt so secretive, whispering as we cautiously investigated the discarded box hiding amongst the well read pages of yesterdays news left beneath his chair.

Oh how naughty they tasted, eating the forbidden sweet biscuits while mum stirred the porridge over the wood stove in the kitchen. They were too special to crunch, you HAD to leave in your mouth until you sucked the dark chocolate away from the biscuit, making the  illicit discovery last for as long as possible. All while keeping watch to make sure we weren’t caught, though I’m sure they knew what we were doing!

Like all children I thought I knew it all. I appreciated the magical tastes of forbidden biscuit and chocolate and the sweetness of a freshly picked orange, peeled with love and enjoyed in family warmth. What more could there be?

It was then I was introduced to the ultimate sweet flavour sensation found in a packet. I am sure most have enjoyed a freckle at some time – those little round disc of heavenly chocolate sprinkled with 100 and 1000’s.

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Have you ever tried combining them with a raspberry sweet?

Or sampled a raspberry – freckle sandwich?

It is superb. The crunch of the little coloured round pearls of pure sugar, the creaminess of the chocolate combined with the squishy flavour of the raspberry.

Gee Whillikers! A naughty explosion of heaven that dances on your tastebuds. Just try stopping at one.

You are welcome 🙂

Breadcrumbs from Yesteryear

Like most days for the past six months she had been trying to keep busy. Being industrious kept the mind from wandering to depths of sadness and loneliness and would tire her weary body in the hope sleep would come easy each night. She has yet to experience the deep sleep she yearns for but she remains optimistic the time will come soon.

And there was always something to do.

In the first months the task looked enormous and they all struggled to find the start let alone a path through. Bit by bit she was making progress. First around his chair, going through the piles of papers, medicines, bills, notes. Then giving some order to the pile on the cupboard near the dining table. She is trying to downsize the freezer and cooking up whatever is next when she opens the heavy lid, knowing she is now cooking for one.

The farm will have to wait until her children and grandchildren can help. Her joints are frustratingly arthritic, her weakening limbs burn with pain, her resolve is fragile. She can work her way through each room of their house while she waits.

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Today she decides to sort through the bookshelf in the back room. Decades of school textbooks fill one of the shelves, novels from last century another. She pulls off The Web of Life Biology textbook. Its cover is faded and scruffy, the corners of the pages curled and marked.

She is taken back to a winters evening in the old kitchen, father and daughter pouring over the book together in front of the warming wood stove. Teacher and student solving the mysteries of the plant kingdom together while she hovered close and kept a check on the vegetables for dinner.  His rich, authorative voice gently explained the intricacies of the plant flower while she absorbed and trusted his teachings. Cherished times now locked away as memories.

As she leaned to place the learned book on the ‘donate’ pile a yellowing sheet jutting from the heavy pages caught her eye. She steeled herself, not sure what this glimpse from the past would tell her. Families tended to keep a few secrets hidden in the back of closets, or books. What was this breadcrumb of life from yesteryear about to reveal?

The envelope was friable, almost crumbling as she gently pulled from hiding. She could still make out the post mark, sent from Tamworth in 1933.

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It was addressed to

 

Mr Clem Tunningley

Clemisha’s Line

Via Gunnedah

 

The bookshelf was now forgotten as she was swept back to bygone days.

99 Belmore Street

West Tamworth

November 13th 1933

 Mr & Mrs C.B. Tunningley

Dear Nephew and Niece

We received your venerable little packet in due course, & we now tender our sincere thanks for same, & at the same time offer you congratulations & best wishes for success & happiness in your new sphere of life. I daresay you are quite settled now to your happy conditions by this time & enjoying the very nice season for a good start off in the way of crops & stock! I know what a lot depends on the weather to make a success of things on the land, & I trust this is a run of a few good seasons now in store for the chaps on the land. I have forgotten the name of your place, but I will chance this little scrap to reach you some day. Trusting you are both in the ‘pink’ of health as I write this, & I will now close. With all the best of wishes from your affectionate Aunt and Uncle

E.H & Will Donaldson

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In the quiet of the afternoon she takes time to relish the long curves of the hand-written letters, the gentile language of the note. She smiles at the time taken to pen a thank you note to her in-laws after their wedding in 1933.

As if on cue her mobile phone beeps and breaks the repose. She is bought to the now, the books spread across the bed in various piles of keep – maybe – donate – recycle.

She smiles to herself as she reflects what this letter would be these days, in 2017. More than likely not even a letter but a simple text on a phone

Something like…

 Hey there! Got yr parcel. Thx. Congrats on the wedding. Good luck with harvest. Hope alls good, catch-up soon. Cheers!

Footnote: The farm books from Bellevue show that 1933 was indeed a great year for wheat – Clem’s income for that year much higher than others.

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Other stories from the Wedding in 1933

 

 

Photo credit: © Can Stock Photo / Grigorenko

Salt on your apple, milk in your soup?

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I always like to have a few bananas on hand. They are such a great little package to feed a sweet tooth moment or satisfy the hunger until dinner is cooked. The recent heatwave of summer has seen the fruit quickly turn brown and not quite attractive to eat on its own. I know there are multitudes of recipes for old bananas from banana bread, muffins or smoothies and yes they can be frozen for another day.

In a moment of reminiscing with my mum (which happens quite a bit these days) my memory was taken back to cold winter evenings growing up, to Sunday nights where tomato soup and bananas fritters were a standard fare of our household.

In winter our routines and meals were the same most weekends. Living out of town meant that we headed off to Saturday sports for the whole day. My brothers to football or soccer while I played and umpired netball and my mum manned the netball ‘tent’ or helped in the canteen. We left home by 9 and arrived back as the sun was revealing its final wintry glow in the late afternoon. As we raced to complete the farm jobs before dark a pot of stew always seem to miraculously appear on the stove – that was our Saturdays.

Sundays, like many Australian families was a bake (roast) meal in the middle of the day, with something lighter for the evening as mum ironed the pile of clothes and we all prepared for the week ahead. In our house soup and fritters was a common menu. Banana fritters.CH_fritters

I used to think we consumed our food like everyone else. It wasn’t until I left home that I realised some family traditions seemed a little weird to others.

Probably one of the first to be revealed was salt on my cut apples. Doesn’t everyone do this? I was reminded that this might not be the norm just recently in our tea room at work. I absent mindedly quartered an apple, grab the salt pot and sprinkled over my plate. One of my co-workers stopped the conversation mid-sentence and ask…”Did you just put salt on that?!?!” “Um, yes?” to which there a small pause and a dumbfounded silence.

Growing up we always had a tin or two of tomato soup in the cupboard. Just one of those staples in an out-of-town pantry at a time when supermarkets were not open 7 days a week. While my father loved his bowl of Bonox I could never quite come at the bitter yet salty brown beef extract and we tended to cook up a pot of tomato soup for the rest of us.

And then you always added a dash milk to your soup before you ate it, no matter the flavour of soup…Don’t you?

Apparently not. That is another one of those weird family traditions that I thought was standard fare. The reason? I think to cool it down? Or maybe as my mother’s family struggled to make ends meet after her father died adding fresh free milk from the farm cow added nutrition to satisfy the hunger of a growing family?

As our family settled in front of the fire, all bathed and hair washed to watch Sunday Night Football we shared banana fritters. They are like a pikelet with mashed banana stirred in, though I recently found out the original recipe from my mother’s family was with chopped apple. Dad didn’t like apple so the next generation of tradition knows them only as banana fritters.

Banana fritters topped with a sprinkle of sugar and lemon juice.CH_cookingfritters

What? I hear you ask. This is another family fare that I assumed everyone enjoyed, only to learn many years later that this is a family secret.

Over dinner a few nights ago as I was probing my mum for the recipe I asked where did the sugar and lemon idea come from?

The sprinkle of sugar is my mother’s family tradition – that is how they used to enjoy the apple fritters as children.

The lemon juice was an addition from my father. His family used to have lemon CH_geraniumeverything. My grandmother’s garden could produce two things – geraniums and lemon trees. Even now the nutty, dusty scent of a geranium will take me back to running barefoot on the small bit of lawn of Bellevue with a multitude of cousins, the sound of laughter and family percolating through the air.

There was always lemons overflowing the fruit bowl on the kitchen table and scattered under the trees that lined the driveway – small, withered and tart enough to make any modern sour lolly taste sweet.

So now I impart a family recipe to you.

If you are wondering what to cook on a cold Sunday evening how about you throw a pot of tomato soup on the stove and whip up a batch of banana fritters? I will forgive you if cannot do the dash of milk in the soup, but the sugar and lemon juice on the fritter is a must try.

Banana Fritters

Combine a cup of self-raising  flour, a tablespoon of sugar, 1 egg and about 2/3 cup of milk in a bowl. Whisk together. You may need to add a little bit more milk to make it ‘sloppy’

Add 2-3 sliced bananas and stir through

Pour small amounts mixture into a heated pan. Cook until bubbles appear, then flip.

Serve warm with a sprinkle of sugar and lemon juice.

 

You are welcome

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Farmers Friends

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A message popped up to our family group from Daughter 1 “Hey, does anyone have the recipe for farmers friends?” While my mum tried to work through why she would want the recipe in New Zealand I took a photo from the flour stained well-worn pages of my recipe book and whisked it to her.

And prompted me to share with you.

I have found out today that the actual name of the recipe is Farmers Favourites. Either way this is one of those handy recipes to have in the library. You can have a batch coming out of the oven for unexpected guests or for a morning tea that slipped your mind in about 30 minutes.

ch_sheepyardsAs I baked a batch today my mind was taken back to watching my grandfather Clem’s nicotine stained fingers with salient twisted knuckles reaching into the dented cake tin to grab a freshly baked Favourite to dip into his black tea. The smoke from the hand rolled cigarette clasped in his forefingers swirling with the dust of the sheep yards as he takes a break under the pine trees of the sheepyards.

I can almost see him as he has a joke with his sons who have come over to help with the crutching, the grandchildren’s eyes peeping over the sides of the ute, hoping there will be some left for them.

With the last biscuit laid out on the baking tray I recall a time when my three girls would EPSON MFP imagebe vying for the beaters and bowl. The unbaked dough was always a treat with cooking, particularly with their grandmother. Today there was no-one to lick the bowl as they have all moved away, though I did treat myself to the wooden spoon.

This recipe was found in the Emerald Hill Country Women’s Association cookbook quite a few years ago. They don’t sound like much but we know when the temperature soars into the 40s, particularly around harvest time these will still be fresh in the lunch bag. The recipe even said “great for harvest” – and the CWA know what they are talking about when it comes to cooking for the people on the land.

ch_mumsrescipeMy mum had hand written it in her recipe book, I copied to my own a few decades ago.

When my girls were younger I used to sprinkle with hundreds and thousands to dress them up a little. Somewhere along the family folklore these have become Famers Friends. Either way I hope you will enjoy.

 

Farmers Friends

4 ounces or 120 grams margarine             ¾ cup castor sugar

1 egg                                                                    1 ½ cups Self raising flour

vanilla

Beat margarine and sugar, add egg and vanilla and beat a little longer. Stir in flour.

Put dessertspoons of mixture on a greased baking tray, sprinkle each biscuit with sugar.

Bake in moderate over for 20 minutes, turning from front to back after 10 minutes.

 

That is it! Enjoy with a cup of tea.

You are welcome.

Part 1: Hotel Burlington

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Ellie flipped through the morning paper as she finished her cup of tea from breakfast. Such a luxury to have the paper and breakfast delivered to her room! She scans the cinema pages to see what other great shows they could attend while in this bustling city. There is a talking picture “The Good Companions” premiering tonight or maybe “Tugboat Annie” at St James theatre in Elizabeth St might be fun too. So many choices in this fine town.

Noises from the city street drift from below. She could discern the trams smooth clack as they made their way down George Street mingling with the horns and purr of diesel engines as the trucks delivered to the markets across the street. The city was coming to life on this September morning in 1933. The new bride enjoyed watching the daily performance from her window overlooking Sussex and Hay streets, their honeymoon getaway.ch_clem_letter

She looks up as her new husband chuckles to himself. “How does this sound Ellie – I’ll sign off the letter From your knew
brother
and put kisses for mother and sisters at the end – that should give them a laugh!”

She smiles and nods “Yes that will make their day”.
Oh how lucky she feels at this moment. Here she was honeymooning at The Burlington in Sydney, enjoying theatre most nights and shopping for furniture to fill her new home with Clem. She knows she has quite a handsome catch there, the envy of her sisters and other young ladies back home.

They first met at a dance at Emerald Hill. The north west sky was a glow of orange and red with the sunset that evening she walked into the hall with her sisters. She spotted Clem and his brother Alan on the stage playing the recorder and tapping out the beat with drums as a few locals stand in small groups around the edge of the hall catching up with friends and the latest news of the district. Girls were giggling and teasing while trying to fill their dance cards. It would be the last dance in the district until after harvest so the hall was quickly filling with people from across the district, keen to have some fun before the hard work of gathering in the grain. She caught Clem’s eye and he winked back as her sister Ursula nudged her in the side.

“Ooh we should try to get a dance with those characters tonight. I hear they have bought the property Bellevue on the Clemisha Line” she suggests, buzzing with excitement.

That was a few years ago now and she is momentarily saddened as she thinks of Alan, dying unexpectedly of a burst appendix and never realising the dream he and Clem had for Bellevue. Clem instead had been left to clear the land and plant the first crops alone. She halts the thoughts and shakes the sadness away. This was their honeymoon, it was to be enjoyed!

“So my Ellie, are you going to write to the folk at home too? Let them know we are doing fine in the big city?” interrupts Clem. “I’ve told them we will head home about next Tuesday. Thinking we might go home on the day train if that suits you. Well, I might go downstairs for a bit now and see what the locals are doing”

 

Left alone in the suite sch_courting_tennishe reminisces about their courting. The countless games of tennis on Sunday afternoons and group events over the last few years. She had not made it easy for Clem, she wanted to be sure he was the right one. Plus she had to compete with her sisters for his attentions– one of the down sides of such a big family.

 

As she grabs the paper and pen to compose the letter home she smiles at the thought of Ursula. After a night out at the cinema Ursula had questioned Ellie

“I’m not sure which one us Clem is keen on, he seems to be courting both of us”

“Well did he hold YOUR hand at the cinema tonight?” admonishes Ellie

“No, he didn’t.” Ursula had replied sullenly “Well I guess we know”.

As she begins her letter with “Dear family at home” she reflects that her Da seemed very pleased with her choice of husband. There was some doubt for a short time, until Clem agreed to become a Catholic to marry her. Her heart skips a beat just thinking about the time Da announced he had to change religion first as no daughter of his was marrying outside the church. She didn’t want to be like Stella who had lost her love as he refused to change for her. It had broke Stella’s heart and she still has a sorrowful appearance about her.

Ellie fills the letter home with news of cinema and shopping. She is excited for their trip tomorrow down to the harbour and hopefully a walk across the new Harbour Bridge that opened last year. Wont that be a story to tell when they arrive home!

Clem bursts into their honeymoon suite just as she is signing off her letter.

“Well I’ll be Ellie” he exclaims “you know those workmen we saw yesterday, down on the corner of Kent and Market Street? Just went down and had a yarn to them. They are installing traffic lights, first in Australia. I gather cars will stop when the lights are red and drive only when they turn green. That will be a sight to see if we come back down another time”

“It will be indeed. Maybe I will be able to drive by then” she laughs.

“You will, cant have my farmer wife not being able to help on the farm. Come on my love, grab your hat and gloves we have exploring to do”

His rugged hand reaches for hers, a sparkle in his eyes, only for her and their long happy future. Together.

Next: Part 2 – The letters home

Image sources © Can Stock Photo / washtay; http://www.visitsydneyaustralia.com.au/ and newspaper.com (Sydney Morning Herald September 13th 1933)

A pilgrimage

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It was meant to be just a drive from point A to point B to share Christmas with the family. It had been one of those years that was best left behind and I was excited to spend time with special family members. Away from ghosts of the past.

Along the Newell Highway this drive took a turn. No longer was it just a means to travel the thousand odd kilometres across 3 states. It was my pilgrimage. One final trip with you across the land we treasured and admired its changing tides.

You would have been impressed with the miles and miles of golden paddocks. The grain now harvested and its gilded hue slightly fading as the stubble turns to earth. We would have both been intrigued with the individual wheat stacks across the Riverina as farmers were wrapping their wheat in plastic to store on farm. A clear sign of a very prosperous year.

My mind was taken back to driving the same road with you in the early ‘80s and how you wished you had travelled at night as the track was profoundly depressing with the ravages of drought – bare paddocks blowing in the summer winds, the sparse starving stock seeking water and feed to survive, the skies clear with little hope of saving rains.

I know you would have appreciated the difference now and noted the numbers of sheep, fresh off shears that roam the knee high pastures. I noticed. You had taught me to see.

We could have chuckled together at the farm mail boxes as we scooted down the Newell, many decorated for Christmas. You would have pointed to the water filling swampy low areas, now a wetland haven for multitudes of birds that chorus as we break for road works along the stretches damaged from the floods that now bring life to the region.

ch_forbeslagoon_duckpsDucks and turtles forage in the evening stillness as we stop for the night at Forbes. A few Willy Wagtails sing an evening lullaby in the fading light. A single tear trickles down my face as their song takes me back to the night not so long ago when the Willy Wagtails warbled a midnight melody calling in a sadness that settled as you took your last breaths. I knew I needed this pilgrimage to bid you farewell.

The story you told me on another trip a few years back springs to mind as we take the long stretch from Forbes to West Wyalong. I still find it hard to imagine how my grandfather Clem rode this same track on a horse in the 1920s. It seemed such a long expedition to buy another horse! I try to imagine the dusty tracks now replaced by sealed highways, the cleared cultivated land that would have been pristine and untouched, and the stars overhead as he rested his weary body and horse each night. I’m thankful you shared this piece of family history with me.

The West Wyalong truck stop is a welcome sight, not just for us but for many travellers on similar journeys to loved ones for the festive season. I strike up a conversation with a family eating their cereal in the carpark, the children’s hair still woolly and eyes still cloudy from the night sleep. In years past that was us. I have recollections of getting dressed in town parks, eating corn flakes from plastic cups as you and mum tried to get some miles in before we woke. Having had children of my own I appreciate how precious those quiet miles were.

You would have wandered around the busy carpark and struck up a few other yarns with fellow travellers. I only watched this time and envisaged the stories of voyagers along the Newell.

I smile at the football ovals in each town with the four posts at either end. I’m not sure you ever played Australian Rules in your time in the south of the state? As we continue through Narrandera I seemed to recall you did play ‘proper’ football games out this way as you sought some Rugby League comps in the heart of Australian Rules country. I guess you spent some time in these towns along the Murray River and Riverina district and probably broke some hearts as a young single graduate in this area.

Stories from you faded as I crossed the swiftly flowing Murray River and headed into Victoria. I continued on this pilgrimage with a heavy heart, knowing that you would have truly relished in the changing landscapes as we zoomed towards Melbourne.ch_readytosailps

I have no doubt you would have repeated the story of trying to drive in Melbourne with your mother-in-law and her strong opinions in the back seat and how you unexpectedly ended up on the steps of Parliament House. I think the roads are better now – or at least with technology we made it the port in plenty of time for our passage across Bass Strait, where we gathered to make new memories with one less seat at our table.

 

You can rest. Our land is in good hands.

“I wept because I was re-experiencing the enthusiasm of my childhood; I was once again a child, and nothing in the world could cause me harm.”
― Paulo CoelhoThe Pilgrimage

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Kingdom Moments

We do not remember days, we remember moments. (Cesare Pavese)

I recently travelled to Tonga as part of a joint group with Good Return and Xplore for Success. Twelve women, six days, a thousand memories.

I have already written about first impressions in Mālō e lelei and how I struggled to keep emotions in check during the magnificent Sunday church service. I hope many other memories from the experience will stay with me for a life time.

I know I will continue to support the work of SPBD and Good Return

I will continuethetravellers to be astonished at the work of South Pacific Business Development (SPBD) and the difference they are making to places such as Tonga. I observed the commitment of the staff at SPBD, their passion. They know they are helping making a difference and it shows. I am also thankful for the tolerance of the SPBD staff when 12 career women from Australia arrive on your doorstep full of energy and questions, you were all very patient, courteous and extremely helpful.

I know I will remember the day I visited Tongatapu.

While I enjoy the luxury of my home I hope I remember the experience of arriving in the poor area of Tongatapu and the realisation that I am seeing people’s homes, lying below sea level amidst salty swamplands,  their yards  awash with fetid waters that seep in from the surrounding seas. Images quickly take me back the overpowering putrescent smells that hung in the air as we visited homes and listened to the women tell their stories.

As I flick on a light switch I hope I will remember the tears that rolled down her cheeks as she told us that the loans had helped her put on electricity in her home. As I jump into my new car I hope I remember the many hours of work over five years of another to save to buy a car to take her children to school. As I continue to support my own children through their university I hope I remember the 23 year old making handicrafts and baking to earn an income for her own education with the desire of a better standard of life for her children.

I hope the feeling of vulnerability in seeing, smelling, feeling the effects of Climate Change with my own senses, not just reading about it in news grabs will remain with me, as well as the small glimmer of hope at the mangrove reclamation area – one day this land will improve. I know future news items will stir the feeling of helplessness as I looked out to sea and pictured what it would be like if a tsunami was to land on these shores and its people.

I know I will always remember the people I met in the short time I spent in Tonga.

I will always…always remember the joy in a Tongan smile, how it is contagious and welcoming.

I was privileged to see and feel the pride shown by the clients when they shared with us stories about their businesses. It was heartwarming to listen the stories of how the microloans being provided by SPBD and Good Return are improving their lives, from providing food for their families, clothing, education, electricity, even a car to take children to school. I was surprised to see the small entrepreneur spirit of many who use the intermittent internet to sell their wares across the world.

Many will hold a special place in my memoday1_visit_bakersries.

The bakers, the mother who passes on her recipes to her daughter by showing.

 

 

The seamstress who makes traditional clothing that Tongans still wear with pride to church and other special occasions.

 

The weavers who will sit for days to make masterpieces from pandanus grass, from floor mats to the traditional taʻovala. Or others that will make intricate pieces to form kie kie that many people still wear daily.

The fisherman wives, who will pray each day for their husband’s safe return from the seas and who will then work long hours packing the haul for market.

The farmer’s wife and daughter who work side by side the husband and father to harvest tapioca and yams to sell at market.

selling_tapa

When I close my eyes I can see the image of women drying and pounding the tapa from thin leaf to broad sheets to sell at market. I can hear the sound of the rhythmic whacking ringing in the village air during the midday hours.

 

I hope I will be able to remember…

being immersed into Tongan life. I am grateful tdance2o be invited into their homes, their church, their lives for a small glimpse of Tonga and its people. Their music mixed with the softness of the Tongan expression and laughter of its people still ring in my ears and flows through my soul.

 

I know I will return to Tonga

You have created a special place in my heart

 

tonga_redshell

 

 

Two score and ten

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“I am 50 years old” she whispers to herself.
Fifty

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Time travelling

It has been a long weekend in my home state this weekend. Three day weekend. It is amazing how that one extra day in a weekend can make such a difference to my outlook on work and play.

Did I do anything thrilling this weekend? mmmm tough question. Read More