A Long Time ago at Illawong

When I was little we moved house a lot, according to those who know. I have one memory of living at Croydon, we lived behind a Chemist shop (apparently) and there was one of those great big wooden dolls houses. I know that this must’ve been at Croydon as the dolls house didn’t move with us. I have a faint memory of playing with the dolls house. I’d have been two.

Illawong, and our home there was another matter! This was the house that Jean and Keith built. It was meant to be our forever home, as people say these days. Mum and Dad had bought the block of land, on the top of the cliff on the river, before they were even Mr and Mrs and in both their names. That alone was subject for discussion, as it was not the done thing back in those days.

They built a three bedroom home with not only river views but river frontage, if you scrambled down the cliff (perhaps an over-dramatic word to describe where the house was built, but it was definitely up, and the access to the river was not straight-forward).

The home was lovely. When we moved in a baby sister also appeared. As I was only 2 and a half when my little sister was born I couldn’t tell you if we moved before she came or not, all I know is that I shared a bedroom with my big sister and there was always a bedroom for the baby!

Our home had a lot of gum trees in the garden (which was accessed down a set of stairs just near where the car was parked, outside and to the right of the front door. There was one big gum tree where Dad hung our great big orange rope swing. This length of rope had originally been used on a ship, to tie it to a bollard, and I think it had been snaffled one evening from Wollongong harbour (which now when I think about it would’ve actually been Port Kembla). I’m not sure if Dad had found it or whether it was his Dad, our Grandfather Bill, who did the honours. As it was, that length of rope was well used, and the end of the rope was looped with a piece of canvas that would’ve originally secured the ship to the shore, and also formed the perfect place to sit on our swing.

Me and my Uncle Peter

In the garden we also had a fabulous cubby house that our Uncle Mervyn had built for us. Inside the cubby was a lovely canvas with a beautiful picture our Aunty Joy had drawn for us, of three canaries, including a baby in the nest – on it was also written “Welcoming the New Arrival to Canary Cottage”. So our cubby was Canary Cottage and the New Arrival was indeed our baby sister.

Today, when I was walking our dog down at the Bay and thinking about other doggies I know, and their names, I was reminded that in the garden of our home in Illawong we had a possum called Rustle. He used to visit us a bit, in the big trees out the side. How lucky we were to have wildlife living in our garden, not just passing through!!

Ending the Winter of Whatever

Today is the official Last Day of Winter. This one has been a doozy. Covid 19 is still making sure we never really know what will happen next. One thing that is a given is that each day starts all lovely and new, full of possibilities.

The last few days have been delightful, weatherwise. We had a gorgeous weekend. I got my new marimekko x uniqlo sundress out on Saturday for lunch at my parents place with my brother and his children as well. It was just wonderful to be out on my parents verandah watching Spring coiling and getting ready to indeed spring all around us. There is nothing like a good meal and a glass of chilled white wine (or two).

The spread in the kitchen, before the main event.

Then on Sunday it was a case of too much sport is never enough. Down to Waratah Oval for the Ramsgate Rams Under 11s match, where T played his heart out.

He’s the blonde with the pony to be proud of!

A quick stop home and we were out again. Over to the Alan Davidson Oval to watch G play two matches for the Newtown Swans Under 14s Girls. Usually she plays for the Whites, but yesterday both girls teams had home games back to back – so G backed it up and played for the Reds as well. She also had a cracker of an afternoon.

There she goes – so determined.

I am glad when t-shirt weather comes around again. Sydney winters are never really a hardship but I am pleased when I know it’s nearly really over.

Covid 19 – a time to change

Very early this year a new corona virus started it’s spread. Like SARS seventeen years ago this one started in China. Unlike SARS this one became a global pandemic.

In March things were getting scary here in Australia. So many things turned on a dime. People in NSW were told to work from home. From Sunday night to Monday morning the message changed, it was time to keep your children home from school. Online classrooms started that very morning.

The week before I had started driving G to and from school. I was so worried about her catching public transport, with this new virus rampant it seemed. I was also giving a classmate (and family friend) a lift. On the Monday morning I was going to keep G at home but my friend eventually returned my messages and wanted me to take her daughter to school. Against my own heart-wishes I packed up G, collected the friend and dropped them to their school (a two train commute across south west Sydney). As I parked around the corner from the drop-off point I turned on the radio to hear the Premier announce that children should be kept home if possible. I promptly burst into tears as I felt like I’d thrown my daughter to the wolves. Driving home I listened to the Teachers Federation President talk about what was going on, and how the teachers felt about the new challenges.

It was official. March 23 was the last day of face to face teaching for my daughter, and the first day of distance education for my son. Already all the ensembles at the schools had been cancelled, lunchtimes had been staggered and vulnerable members of the school community were told to stay home and stay safe.

I cried to myself at irregular intervals, daily, for weeks. So much heart-worry. So much international news of times that were so much worse than what we were experiencing in Australia. Seeing that and wondering if it truly would happen here made for such anxious times.

They’re not over. I do feel better though now that we have had 14 days of no local transmissions in NSW.

I could write about this all day.

It has been a long time since I posted here. Prepare yourselves for a flurry of activity now!

Arncliffe Under The Lights

Our primary school, like many in Sydney, has families from all over the world. Many of these families are Muslim, and this time of year is very important to them.

Every second year our school celebrates with a big community dinner under the lights. We all bring a plate to share, mains or dessert. This year I baked a coconut cake. I think it went down a treat as by the time I went to the dessert tables it had gone!

Respectfully we wait til sunset before we start our meal.

This is the third and final Community Dinner for our family, as part of the APS family.

Each time my heart fills. I will miss this feeling of local community.

The tables filled up as families arrived.

The food was placed on long tables under cover. There were picnic tables out on the top court. It was cold out, but the community spirit warmed our souls.

What are you reading Mary? 27/5

Reading, and actually finishing books has become challenging lately.

Recipe books, on the other hand, have been an easy type of book to dip into!

This morning, after an excellent pork roast last night,from this particular book, I’m investigating further.

A did the honours with dinner last night, and it was perfect.

This recipe book was compiled by the CWA (Country Women’s Association) as a fundraiser for farmers during the current drought. The recipes are from farmers, and cooks, from around Australia. There are interviews with various farmers and primary producers, who have supplied recipes. They give us an insight to their life on the land, and their connection with it. It’s lovely.

I have just been reading about Gillian Leeds, a cattle farmer from Jerilderie NSW. Her story has its ups and downs, both personally as a young widow, and as a breeder of shorthorn cattle. The bit that made me laugh was, when she entered a bull in the Dubbo Show for the first time, in 1982. When the bull won its class, the young man leading it said to Gillian “Put your lipstick on, we’re gonna win this!” He was right, the bull won Grand Champion. Gillian was the first woman to win at Dubbo Show, and the only woman breeder at the time.

I love that they won. I love the advice from that young man. So often it’s Mums who say put your lippy on – he must’ve had a great Mum too.

If you’d like to buy a copy of this book go to –

cwaa.org.au

The porchetta on page 149 is a winner!

He has gone

A week ago last Friday morning, Alastair received a call from his brother. Although we had anticipated this day for quite some time, it was a shock to hear that his Dad, John, had died. John had been living in a nursing home in Maidenhead for almost exactly ten years. After Joyce died we knew that he couldn’t live independently, as he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia for a few years then. Over the years his mobility had decreased, and his awareness as well.

In the past few weeks his condition had worsened and we had been in close contact with the charge sister. When Al asked on Tuesday if he should go her answer was “not yet”.

If anyone deserves to rest in peace it is my father-in-law. He was a delightful man, a great role model to Al, a caring Dad, Granddad and father-in-law, and a devoted and loving husband to Joyce.

Anticipatory grief is hard, we have been missing the man we knew for years as this disease took over.

Al and I will be travelling to England in a few days time, to stand with our family and friends to farewell this true gentleman. We will all miss him very much. Here he is, from a few years ago now (what’s twenty or more between friends), on holidays in Greece.

What Mary Read

Last weekend I finished reading “Say Hello”, by Carly Findlay

I enjoyed it thoroughly – I laughed, I cried and I felt uplifted when I finished it.

Carly is a friend of mine who lives in Melbourne. We met through her blog, quite a few years ago now, and in person about three years ago. She came to stay and we went to the Bus Stop Films Showcase Night. It was fun walking the red carpet together.

I was thrilled to attend her Sydney book launch. She was interviewed by/ in conversation with Annabelle Crabb, who is also a favourite of mine.

Carly’s story is one of growth, strength and resilience. Being born with ichthyosis, a rare skin condition has meant her path has been uncommon. This is a book she has written for all the Little Carly’s out there, who wish that people would just “Say Hello”.

Carly does not see herself as inspirational, but she is, for all the right reasons. She is A Published Author!

Three cheers for you my friend!

He is Ten!

Today T is ten! He is magnificent and lovely and a joy to be with.

Last night he threw this pose when I said I needed some last photos of Nine.

His day started with presents in our bed, though for the first time he was the only one in the bed. A and G were up, dressed and breakfasted as they needed to leave at their usual time. This used to be the time we’d all be contemplating rising. Ahhh, having a high school girl has brought some changes!

Breakfast and up to school where he had a good day from a reports.

Thai coconut chicken for dinner, and a pavlova for Birthday cake dessert rounded off a lovely day for our Ten Year Old Boy.

May his new year bring all the good things his way.

Here’s to good health and happiness Master T!

What Mary Read

Today I finished reading “No Friend but the Mountain –  Writing from Manus Prison” by  Behrouz Boochani, translated by Omid Tofighian.  This is a spectacular book, on so many levels. Behrouz is a prisoner on Manus Island. He refers to the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre as a prison and he is correct.

He has been on Manus, locked up for several years. His supposed crime is to seek refuge in Australia, and to arrive by boat. Seeking refuge is not a crime, but what has happened to him, and many others, under the direction of the Australian Federal Government is.

Reading this book has been devastating, engaging, informative and horrifying. That the government seeks to destroy these humans through imprisoning them is something I find hard to comprehend.

The last few weeks have seen so many details come to light about the cost of  running our off-shore detention centres, and the tender process or lack thereof. It is time that every man living on Manus is transferred to Australia for effective medical treatment, as there would not be one who is not in need of psychiatric care.

Behrouz has won both the won both the $25,000 non-fiction prize at the Victorian premier’s literary awards and the $100,000 Victorian prize for literature. He deserves these accolades.

If you only read one book this year, make it this one. If you only buy one book, purchase this. It should be mandatory reading for every single person who thinks they have a future as a politician in this country, on whatever level of government they aspire to.