Thursday, December 28, 2006

Goodbye 2006

This will probably be my last posting for 2006 as we're going away for a few days, down to Victoria. By the time we get back it will be less than 360 days until Christmas ..... lol.

I'd like to wish all my blog friends and readers a very safe and relaxing holiday and an enjoyable, successful and rewarding 2007.

One garden looked a little bit colourful so I thought I'd overdo the photography just a bit ... lol.







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Saturday, December 23, 2006

It did rain - a little.

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It did rain just a very little this weekend, but enough to entice me to take a few photos of the clouds, a couple of garden shots and one of my rapidly drying (and dying) lawns. Water restrictions don't allow us to water lawns any more this summer.

I hope all GTS readers will have a very happy Christmas and New Year.








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Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Greeting to all.

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Although I have been very much in blogging limbo
for the past few weeks I have, nevertheless,
thought of you all often.
I have read many more blogs than I have left
comments on, and I've really appreciated the fact
that so many of you have continued to
read and comment on my postings,
few and far between though they have been.

Now I'm sure you are all busily preparing for Christmas.
Many of you, I didn't even know this time last year.
That's the beauty of blogs; new friendships are made
and very soon you feel like you've know each other
for years.

While many of you will experience a white Christmas,
and others will be hoping for one (or maybe not),
here in Australia it is now summer time.
Most places will experience a hot Christmas Day,
and sadly, many areas of Victoria and Tasmania
will still be fighting off devastating bushfires.

Here in Canberra, I think the forecast is for a
fine, cloudy day around 24ยบC, so that will be
very pleasant indeed (although possibly
rain would be even more pleasant,
especially for the firefighters).

This year we will share our Christmas Day
with Michelle and Marcel and our grandchildren,
and also Marcel's parents who are visiting from Switzerland.
It should be a very enjoyable day, indeed.

So, may I wish all my blog friends,
a very happy Christmas, and a
safe, healthy and rewarding New Year.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The School Christmas

Daisy Lupin has invited everyone to contribute a Christmas story, poem, song, etc. to a special blog that she has set up. All contributions will be transferred by Daisy to this blog and left on the web for a few weeks for others to read.

As this is the last week of the school year in Australia before they break for the summer holidays (about 6 weeks), I thought I would contribute this story about how my school prepared for Christmas and the holidays more than 50 years ago. Much of this story would have been typical of small schools around the country for many decades. Sadly, scarcely any of these schools still exist; children now having to travel further to attend larger schools in the towns.


THE SCHOOL CHRISTMAS

As the November days slipped by, excitement mounted in the little Victorian, one-roomed country school. It would be only a few weeks until the end-of-year school concert and Christmas Tree. The big decision would be, which play should we perform? It needed to be one that had roles for almost all of the 25 or so children who attended the school in the early 1950s. A play which included a crowd scene would be ideal. Although I don’t remember specifically any of the plays we performed, we must have found one that filled the bill each year. It was easy enough to select the other items for the concert – poems, songs, and one or two skits, maybe even a dance.

With the main play chosen and roles allocated, a certain amount of time each day was dedicated to practising. One of the mothers volunteered to accompany our songs on the slightly out of tune piano, something we were not used to as we usually sang unaccompanied throughout the year. Lines had to be learnt and costumes made, and somewhere amongst it all we still had schoolwork to do, and worse still, end-of-year testing.

Gradually, all things relating to the concert and Christmas took over. We stencilled Christmas motifs like holly, bells, puddings, Santa and reindeer on the blackboard and coloured them in with chalk. Decorations were made with long strips of crepe paper. Two different coloured strips were joined at right angles at one end and then each strip alternately folded back over the other and finally joined at the other end. When opened out, they made very pretty streamers with which the schoolroom would be decorated for the concert. We also made lolly baskets from cardboard and covered them with crepe paper. The cardboard usually came from cereal packets, but I seem to remember the covers of our exercise books mysteriously disappearing too. These baskets would be filled with mixed lollies and given to all of the children, including pre-schoolers on the big night.

We practised our roles until we were word perfect and sang like angels, with only the occasional fluffed line and flat note to bring an exasperated sigh from our teacher, and on the night, a smothered smile from our parents. In the last few days we brought our costumes to school and had real dress rehearsals.

The excitement and anticipation continued to build until, finally, the day we had so looked forward to, arrived. There was no need to bring lunch to school that day because after a final rehearsal, we were sent home at lunchtime. For most of us that was anything up to a three-mile bike ride, or in our case, walk. Having the afternoon off had a dual purpose. Firstly, it allowed the members of the school committee time to set up and decorate the room and Christmas tree, and secondly, it meant that the children could have an afternoon nap ready for their late night. All of the children lived on farms and, in those days, they rarely went out at night. In fact, one of the things I looked forward to was the drive home after the concert and watching the headlights of the car illuminate the tree branches as they met overhead. It was the only night of the year that I went out and it was all such a novelty.

At 7.30, dressed in our very best clothes, and barely able to contain our excitement, we arrived at the school and gazed in awe at the transformation. All of the desks had been taken out and stacked in the shelter shed, and replaced with long wooden benches on which the parents could sit, and taking up what seemed like a quarter of the room was a magnificent Christmas Tree reaching to the ceiling and sparkling with tinsel and coloured baubles. Underneath the tree was a huge mound of packages of all shapes and sizes and gaily wrapped. The room itself was adorned with the streamers we had made and clusters of brightly coloured balloons. We could contain ourselves no longer, and as it was still daylight, we careered around the schoolground like mad things until the teacher and a couple of parents managed to assemble us in the porch ready to begin the concert.

All dressing up for the various items had to be done in the half-dark of the porch, as the school had no electricity, and the schoolroom was lit by pressure-lanterns just for the occasion. With many barely concealed stage-whispers and frantic yelps of “where’s my hat, and who’s got my beard?”, item followed item, almost as we had practiced it, but only after we had made eye contact with our parents just to make sure that they were watching. The parents clapped and laughed in all the right places, plus a few wrong places, and joined in the carol-singing at the end. To this day, the sound of traditional Christmas carols always brings memories of Mum sitting in the audience among the other parents, and I miss her more then than at any other time.

Finally, one of the fathers would come inside and call for silence. “Listen” he would say, and in the distance we could hear the sound of bells. That was the cue for the jolliest rendition of Jingle Bells, until through the door came the man himself, all round and puffing, dressed in red and white and a pair of carefully scrubbed rubber boots, carrying a large sack on his back. The previously tired and fractious toddlers were suddenly wide awake, although some were a little scared too. The distribution of presents from under the tree and from within the sack was noisy and chaotic, but so much fun. Although I remember when I was in Grade Two writing my letter to Santa and listing three things that I would like. I meant to write ‘train’ but made a mistake and wrote ‘tram’. Sure enough, I received a tram and was very disappointed, particularly as I had little idea what a tram was. One year, Mum didn’t go to the concert, as she was not long out of hospital with a new baby. She asked my four-year-old brother what Santa had brought him? He replied, “Just an old billy and a shovel”. He had really wanted a truck and could see no use for the bucket and spade that he was given.

Children compared presents, and mothers tried desperately to hold on to their toddlers and their presents, which always seemed to be larger than the child itself, while the wrapping paper threatened to smother us all. Then Santa departed amidst much waving and admonishing us to ‘be good’. As we got older, we checked out which father was missing during Santa’s visit, and then we knew whose turn it had been to don the suit and scrub the boots. Next came the distribution of the lolly baskets and a real treat, dixie ice-creams, which in the absence of refrigeration had been kept cold in a canvas container packed with dry ice. Slowly parents began collecting their tired and over excited offspring ready for the journey home.

The next day was Break Up day, but it was usually only the older children who made it to school, the younger ones still sleeping off the effects of their big night. We brought lunch to school but this time it was to share with the other children in a party. But first there was work to do. I don’t remember how the tree was taken out or the decorations removed, but I think it must have been undertaken by a couple of parents not afraid of heights. The tree possibly had a second outing in another home a week later, complete with tinsel and presents. After the streamers and balloons were folded up or burst, whichever was appropriate, and the benches stacked away under the school, it was time to sweep the floor and give the unpolished floorboards their annual scrubbing. So it was off with the shoes and socks, and out came the buckets of water, scrubbing brushes and soap. A few nimble-footed children can cover a floor with soapy water in very quick time, and if you didn’t have a brush it didn’t matter because skating over the floor on a bar of soap was sure to knock a little dirt off anyway. Finally all of the water was pushed towards the corners of the room, where a number of holes had been drilled through the floor solely for the purpose of draining the water from this once a year ritual. At last the floor was clean and we were wet, and whilst both dried we set up our party on a long trestle table outside. Cakes, sandwiches and even some leftover lollies were laid out on plates down the centre and ornate bottles of red Raspberry Vinegar made their appearance. A very sedate and unimaginative party by today’s standards – no chips, sausage rolls, or Coke – but a real treat for us nevertheless.

With the party over and cleared away, the floor dry and the desks brought in from the shelter shed and rearranged, there was nothing left to do but wish everyone a happy Christmas and turn for home. It was always a sad time for me as I loved school and didn’t look forward to six weeks at home with no friends to see or play with. Still, Christmas was only one week away; I could always focus on that.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Back to the Farm

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I seem to have taken a 'photo break' at the moment so I thought I would show you where I spent 22 years of my life, right up until the day I got married (see yesterday's post). I was only two years old when I moved with my parents and two older brothers to this 100 acre dairy farm in Gippsland, Victoria, so in my heart it is still 'home' even though it is no longer owned by any of the family.

The area shown in the photo was once an overgrown orchard but after Dad removed some of the old trees, mowed the grass and planted a range of ornamental trees and shrubs, it became a delightful extension to the house garden, and was usually referred to as 'the Park'. This photo was taken soon after it was remodelled; by the time I left home all the new trees were several metres tall and nearly as wide in some cases.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

On this day ..... "I Thee Wed"

December 16 1967 Richard and I were married at Christ Church, Drouin in Victoria. It was a beautiful, early summer's day, with many family and friends gathered together. The reception was held in the Church Hall and superbly catered for by the Ladies Guild. Our Honeymoon was four wonderful weeks in New Zealand.

Coloured photos were a rarity back then, unfortunately.

'All dressed up, with somewhere to go!"


With my sister, Rita, and my father.


With our wonderful attendants, John and Rita.

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With our parents.


I did manage to find one coloured slide after all.


Thirty nine years later we are happily retired, and very proud of our four children (photo taken about 6 years ago - must be time we got together for a new one).
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Cool pool.

The trip to Junee and Young last weekend wasn't all hot, dry and depressing. Okay, there were no cherries left to pick but we did buy some delicious ones, and the model trains at the Roundhouse Museum weren't working but the rest of the exhibition was interesting.

One of the highlights of the weekend was our accommodation in Young. The motel advertised it as being a cottage sleeping 2-8 people. It was in fact a whole house, well-equipped and old enough to be interesting. The motel also had a much-appreciated pool, which was enjoyed by us all in the hot weather.

The grandchildren and their mother. The grandparents are all a bit camera-shy (especially this one).





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Monday, December 11, 2006

A Simplistic View

I know that Stuart always likes a good debate (see comments on my previous posting) but to suggest that farmers should relocate to areas where there is plenty of water is no solution at all. The whole situation is far too complex to deal with in a blog, and I certainly don't have the answers, but a few points worth considering are:

1. The areas most affected by this drought - large areas of South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland - 'normally' have sufficient rain for most of the agriculture undertaken in these area, ie. crops, beef, dairy, wool, etc.

2. The majority of this land is highly productive land - it is definitely NOT the Sahara.

3. Areas where there is ample water at present are mainly in tropical regions, unsuitable for the staple agricultural crops grown in the south.

4. Farming is not 'just a job' where you can move from place to place with little disruption. Farming is a 'way of life' which incorporates the entire family, and in many cases, has done for several generations.

5. A country like Australia needs its Primary Industry - we cannot compete with many other countries in the fields of manufacturing and technology, and service industries are not income generators in themselves.


Having said that, I personally feel that many farming methods over the past 200 years have unwittingly created many of today's problems, such as:

1. Wholesale clearing of timber for farming has resulted in salinity, erosion of topsoil from wind and water, and created larger, drier areas with decreased rainfall.

2. European methods of farming are in many cases unsuitable for the drier, hotter climate of Australia. Multiple cultivation of the soil exacerbates these problems.

3. Some of our crop choices are dubious, eg. rice and cotton. Although I have read that more water is required to produce a kilo of beef than a kilo of rice (usually quoted by non-meat eaters). Perhaps that is true.

4. We used to be able to produce most of our Primary Industries without relying so heavily upon irrigation. What's changed?

These are just a few of my random thoughts on the subject. No doubt I'll go away and think "I should or shouldn't have said that, etc." But I would be interested to read what others think on the subject, even though I know that I won't always agree with what I read.

It's even worse ....

... than these photos show. These are about the only photos I took of the countryside during our trip to Junee and Young at the weekend. Whilst there were many scenes that would have made good photos, it seemed too much like photographing the death of so many farming communities. I have NEVER seen the country looking so heartbreakingly dry and barren, and we're only in the second week of summer. Very few sheep and cattle to be seen - little wonder as most of the land is as bare as a board. However, most of these farmers are a resiliant lot, even if they are up to their necks in debt, and hopefully, when the drought breaks, they will still be there and ready to get on with the job again.

Bone dry creek bed.




No doubt this crop was planted with high hopes. Alas ...


Typical country scenes just outside Junee.

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Green Thumb Sunday

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Once again I've almost missed Sunday entirely, but we left home at 7.30 on Sunday morning and didn't return until late Monday afternoon, so perhaps I can be excused.


These photos were taken on our trip on Sunday morning. Michelle, Shay, Zoe and Luca are trying to interest these cows in some additional green grass, handpicked especially for them. They are watched by Michelle's father, Richard, and her mother-in-law, Berta.


Success!


The photos were taken

"Where the dog sits on the tuckerbox, Five miles from Gundagai."

Gundagai is in New South Wales, about 90 minutes drive west of Canberra, and the above line is taken from one of the best known Australian 'folk' songs. The actual statue is dedicated to the early pioneers in the area, but the story behind the song is shown in the photo below.



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Friday, December 08, 2006

Another BLACK FRIDAY?

This map was issued this afternoon and shows where fires are burning in the State of Victoria. There are at least 70 fires burning, many of them out of control, and with the worsening weather conditions - very high temperatures and strong northerly winds - forecast for the weekend, it is feared that several of these fires will join up creating a massive 600,000 hectare (1.5 million acre) fire on a 100 klm front. Several towns are being threatened and at least 24 schools have closed.




Many thousands of firefighters from all over Australia and New Zealand are racing against time and the elements to contain these fires ahead of the deteriorating weather conditions. The situation is so bad that it may replicate Friday 13 January 1939 - now known as Black Friday - when millions of hectares of bushland were burned, whole towns destroyed and 71 people died.

God forbid that this should happen again. Please, please pray for everyone in Victoria, especially the firefighters and those whose homes are in danger, and those who have already lost so much in the way of livelihood.

Although I left Victoria more 33 years ago, it's still my home State in my heart.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

WHY would you do it?

This photo was taken at Cape Hauy, Tasmania, by a rock climber and photographer, Simon Carter. My knees go weak just looking at those climbers on that rock, and thinking what might happen if they fell. For more fantastic photos of rockclimbers throughout the world, including many in Australia, visit the Gallery at Onsight Photography

(Click on photo to enlarge - and really go weak at the knees!)

Summer is here - so is the Cricket.

It's summer time in Australia, and with it comes cricket. No, not a black shiny insect, but a sport played by more men than women, in teams of 11 players usually dressed in white. If you are unfamiliar with this sport, then let me explain :-

Cricket is quite simple. You have two sides, ours and theirs, one out in the field, and one in. Each man in the side that's in, goes out, and when he is out, he comes in, and the next man goes in, until he is out. Then, when they have all been in, and are all out, the side that's been in the field, comes in, and the side that's been in goes out, and tries to get out, those coming in. Sometimes you get men still in and not out. Then, when both sides have been in and out, including not outs, that's the end of the game. It's really very simple.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Where town and country 'meat'.

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I was so busy yesterday that I forgot about Green Thumb Sunday, but as it's still Sunday in some parts of the world, I thought I would sneak this photo in. These are not our cattle. They were in a paddock (field) close to a park where we went walking last week. During our walk we saw dozens of kangaroos, a large shingleback lizard, and around 15 different bird species.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Does every cloud have a silver lining?

Perhaps. But yesterday's certainly didn't have any rain. Still, I thought they made some interesting pictures














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(I had some partial success with 'Hello' today so I added a few more photos of the Japanese Gardens to yesterday's posting.)