Monday, December 22

Forty Years on - Memories of the Darwin Disaster

In some ways it is hard to believe that it is 40 years since Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia was so brutally damaged on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, while the rest of us were celebrating oblivious to the tragedies unfolding in the north of the country.

My family - husband, daughter and son, had travelled to Mt Gambier in South Australia to spend Christmas with my parents, who lived in their fairly new home just a few hundred meters from where I had done my nursing training years earlier.

We had a lovely day - can't recall the details but I know it was good - with plenty of food (maybe turkey, and vegetables and Christmas pudding.  Yum.  Everyone was happy.  I don't know who turned the television on late in the afternoon.  Perhaps my husband, perhaps my father.  The headline news was of the disaster in Darwin and we all watched on in horror and disbelief.

Some 66 people died, and many thousands lost their homes.  It was a nightmare.  I had not been to Darwin .  I wasn't to visit until a few years later where I remained in the airport, but in 2013 I did visit.  




The cyclone warning signal is something I have heard on occasions since then.  Even now it strikes fear into me.  I confess I cried when I heard it as I found the video for this post.

I still find it hard to watch the video above.

Of course it is a different city now - with many of the buildings supposed to withstand the high winds that come with cyclones, but there has not been another one like cyclone Tracy.  It was so cruel that it destroyed Christmas for all who lived in Darwin.

Something I will never forget.


Sunday, December 21

The Sacred Lotus Flower

Last year I accidentally discovered a whole lake filled with Lotus at Sandstone Point - not far from my home in Beachmere.  There is a large lake beside the Sandstone Point shopping centre.  There is a lovely lawned area and a shelter, and a path right around the lake.  I calculated that they would be flowering around December to February, so this morning I set off to see if there were good photography opportunities.

The area did not look as healthy as it did 12 months ago - with many of the huge lotus leaves dying off somewhat, and not a lot of flowers.  Perhaps I will return in a few weeks.  Maybe our dry and recent very hot weather has impacted on the flowers this season.

They are such exquisite and perfect flowers - from the pinkish bud that pokes out between the leaves, ncased in green petal-like protection that soon drops off and slowly the flower opens as the petals lose their colour, except on the tips.  I can understand how these are so sacred in some religions.  So perfect.

This is the Sacred Lotus.


When the petals are rady to drop off, the seed pod in the centre will change from yellow to green, and later brown.  As there were few seed pods in the pond, I can only guess that perhaps it is early in the flowering season for them.  

Interestingly much of the lotus is edible - the petals, the seedpod, the leaves and the roots.






I did a circuit of the pond and noticed that there were other water flowers blooming - some that we would call water lillies.  It is such a beautiful spot.

Last year there were many fruit bats in the trees surrounding the pond, but today I could see none.


The above photo shows the blue water lillies and some tiny white lilies that all seem to live happily on the lake.

Tuesday, December 16

Volunteering

I was brought up in a family that did a lot of volunteering.  As a small girl I joined the junior section of the Girl Guide movement an beacame a Brownie.  It was as a Brownie that I learned the value of doing "good deeds", and it resonated with me for all my life.

I progressed to being a Girl Guide and a Ranger Guide, but that sadly was the end of my formal involvement with the Guide movement, but it was enough to set the seeds of what I was to do for the rest of my life.

Over the years I have worked in a lot of volunteer roles, from school committees, editor of the school newsletter, various community groups, and in politics.  I was a member of Quota International, Lioness  and lots more.  I'd like a dollar for all the hours I have done helping others!

When I toured around Australia and spent time in Dongara, Western Australia I also helped out the Lions Club there.  I have also done Clean Up Australia - including the exciting one where a loaded gun was found shortly after we started and we were "locked down" because we were in the midst of a crime scene.

These days I am a volunteer at the Caboolture Historical Village - which I love as I love exploring Australian history.  Every day can be an adventure as there is so much to see and learn.

Last week I was in one of the exhibits with some folk from Pakistan and Sri Lanka (some will remember that it used to be called Ceylon), and one of the exhibits they found very interesting at the Village was the photos of all the folk hanged at the Boggo Road prison.  All bar one were men - the only woman hanged was an Ellen Thomson.  In any case it was fascinating.

The blokes were really interested.  They were fascinated that many of those executed were from other countries including two from Ceylon.



My role at the Village is wide - I have been a tour guide, and I am working in the marketing team, so kept busy.

As part of the marketing we are supporting a surprise program run by David Koch/Channel 7, as we have been recommended to be part of a program about getting a "rescue" for our website.  Funny really.

So if you read this can I ask that you visit this site and vote for the Village?  It will help us.  Maybe.

http://www.rescuemysite.com.au/nomination/historicalvillage-com-au/

Monday, December 15

A Seige in Sydney

I have to confess that when I heard about the siege in Sydney I cried.  Shock I guess, but in a way many of us in Australia have wondered when something like this in the name of Allah would happen in Australia.  I sobbed for a few kilometers and then pulled myself together.  But still I am uncomfortable - not frightened, and I think of the fear of the staff and customers at the Lindt Cafe.

Some of the information on this video (which I found on You Tube) - some people are very quick to share these sort of images, but not necessarily is the information always correct.



It is from all accounts a lone operator - so he has made us all aware of his abhorrent cause, and we are still determined as a country to support our government in ridding this country of these terrorists who seem to enjoy putting fear into people.

I heard an American, who is visiting Australia, discuss his surprise that the police want to ensure that all people are safe. He said the police in the US would have by now retaliated and stormed the cafe, and they would anticipate that there would be casualties as a result of such action.  He was critical of the attitude of the police today.  Personally I see their actions as reasonable, but I am in no position to criticise or judge what they are doing, but I do hope that they can resolve the situation without any casualties.

Again with people I was with today, the concern was expressed about Muslim women wearing face coverings - the  niqab in particular is offensive to Australians.  While I try to be sympathetic to the women who feel happy to wear these face coverings, I do know that many Australian women want it banned in Australia.  I personally happy for Muslim women to wear a hijab, which is a covering of the head and chest, but for women to have to view our world by looking between slits in a black piece of clothing I find difficult to comprehend, and I doubt if these women will really be able to assimilate with other Australians.  Are they wearing these coverings because they really believe that it is necessary, or is it the males in their families that insist upon it?  Australians are also appalled that young girls are being married off to men without their consent - that some family members are sending their daughters overseas to marry.  

I can only hope that today's situation can be resolved without any death or injury.    


Friday, December 12

Growing Liliums

We all love these flowers and for much of the year they are the choice of flower sellers - they look awesome!  I had these growing - though only white ones, in a home garden a number of years ago.  Marriage breakup and house sold, but as I didn't have a place of my own I did not manage to salvage my Liliums, (though did manage to keep some of the orchids I grew).

Recently I read somewhere that Lilium's grow well in pots.  So I went off to Bunnings and found some small plastic bags each with two bulbs in them, and came home and planted them in plastic pots.  Two bulbs per pot.  Apparently they like being a little crowded.  One packet's contents were a little sickly looking and I had doubts about their prospects.  The first pot (white flowers) took off quickly and I soon had buds on them.  Not long stems though.

I don't recall when I planted them, but it was only about 2 months or so ago, and slowly but surely they progressed.

Today one of the buds opened up - the two bulbs were supposedly the same, but you can perhaps see that their development differed, with the other plant having buds in slightly different formation, which I think will result in longer stems on the flowers.  We will see.

I have brought the pots into the house and the air is filled with the delicate and beautiful fragrance from the flowers.  I will (at the appropriate time of the season) propagate from these plants and purchase some more.


There are some instructions on growing them from Gardening Australia here.

Wednesday, December 10

Marmalade

I prefer to cook jams than eat them, but I do have one favourite that I enjoy eating more than cooking. I love my morning toast with marmalade.  The marmalade I like is orange marmalade, and after a couple of weeks of trying other brands I can say (with some authority) that Coles brand is the best.

I do consider myself somewhat of an authority on jam - having been the convenor of the Jam and Pickle Stall at my daughter's school's fete many years ago.  Also I was brought up making jam. I was born in Adelaide, South Australia back in the 1940's, and when we moved to our new home in 1948,  Mum and Dad planted a wonderful range of fruit trees, including orange, lemon, apricot, plum, and peach. 

My sister and I became jam makers during school holidays - we washed and cut the fruit and would stand over the big pot of boiling fruit, stirring until it was ready.  We knew how to check that it was all well, and we knew how our mother sterilised the jars and how she would load the hot finished jam into the jars and seal with cellophane and a rubber band, and we would write on little sticky labels the type of jam and the date it was bottled.

I miss having so much fruit to work with and eat, but then I don't have to work hard during summer to prepare it all either.  When my daughter was at school I happily volunteered to be the jam maker and convenor for their jam and pickle stall and once again I "slaved ovre a hot stove" to product the product for sale.

Occasionally I still do make some jam.  If I have surplus of fruit I will do so.  I have some strawberry jam in the fridge that I made some time ago, and several years ago I made my first Lilly Pilly Jam.  The Lilly Pilly is a tree native to Australia that has copious red or pink berries, but few people know the secret of making such jam.  I love it but it is not sold in fruit shops - you need to know someone who has a tree!!

It is a while since I have made marmalade (orange or citrus jam) and I have found one brand that I like.  I do like to support Dick Smith Foods, and bought their marmalade in my quest to support the Australian market but I don't like the marmalade.  It is darker than my favourite brand and not as tasty.  I also tried the Woolworths brand (don't like it) and IXL low sugar variety. Yuk!!!

I don't like to waste my food, so I will eat through the odd varieties that I have and when gone I will again open my Coles jar of Breakfast Marmalade.   Yum.


Sunday, December 7

A Drive through the Past

Yesterday, December 6th, 2014, I drove from my home in Beachmere, just 50 kms north of Brisbane, to a function at University of Queensland - lunch with my friends of 5W.  There is a big group of members in Brisbane - in fact around 70 turned up at the luncheon yesterday.

Along the way I passed many reminders of events in my life.  The first was on the highway at Aspley.  I can't remember when it was, I am guessing 1984, as I was working for an insurance company and I drove home from an evening appointment around 9 am and as I was passing through an area adjacent to a petrol station I hit three sheet.  I was driving in my brand new car - and the sheep ran out in front of me, smashing the whole front of my car.  One I killed, one survived and the other was thrown over my car and with broken legs thrashed around behind my car.  I ran across to the service station and called the police (no mobile phones in those days!), and went back to the car.  I actually cradled the injured sheep in my arms trying to stop it from running amok on the highway.  The police were going to shoot it, but it died in my arms.  My car was towed away for repairs.

A few kilometers along I passed a street where we used to live.  What amazing stories I can tell about life at that house.  We lived there only a few years but it was a bit of a party house (nice family parties) as it had a pool.  I could write for ages about things that happend there - the drama of the big storm in 1985 (Brisbane has just had another major storm event - the worst since that one in 1985), a rather dramatic Christmas when the young boys who were supposed to be playing happily with their sisters, drank a bottle of whisky and one ended up in hospital!  It was where our son taught mice to swim, where my husband had to rescue guinea pigs (while only dressed in his undies) when the back yard flooded and nearly drowned the beloved pets.  Oh, there are so many stories from that house.

It was from that house that the children and I left on an amazing adventure in central Queensland, when I drove the children up to Airlie Beach, and we had an amazing series of wonderful adventures.

Further along the road I came to the spot where I had another car accident.  When my car was returned after repairs from the sheep incident, and only a couple of weeks later, I was driving around the "roundabout" when a young girl clearly not concentrating, ran into the back of my car.  Badly damaged again, but not needing a tow truck.  I was not amused.  My new car was so battered in its first few months with me.  (Luckily that was the last of its dramas!)

Further on was Prince Charles Hospital where I worked back in the 1970's and the 1980's - initially in the cardiac area, and later in the psychiatric section.  A lot of memories there!!

I drove past the primary school that my children attended, and also passed a house that figured in our lives when we lived in the area.  My son had a friend who lived nearby, and one day the little boy was playing with matches as I recall, and set the house on fire.  I remember offering to have  the boys stay with us in the days immediately after the fire.   I can't recall how long he stayed - perhaps 4 or 5 days, and he went back to his parents.  A couple of days later the father and the boy appeared at our door, the father returning the items that the little boy had stolen from me!!!  So sad.  Some months later the boy ran across the road and was hit by a car - and was rendered a quadraplegic I recall.

The journey to the university is one that I have travelled frequently and often I have things that crop up to remind me of some aspect of my life.
Stained glass windows at the Women's College, University of Queensland

Lunch at the Women's College is also worth attending, but as it was a Christmas function we had roast pork and vegetables and a great choice for dessert.  I took a photo of the stained glass in the college.  Quite beautiful.

Also I was given the task of taking a photo of the whole group (see below), but we were offered the services of a lovely lady in the kitchen - a professional photographer, so I set my photo up and helped get the 70 members in order, and she took the photo so I was in it.

Around 2 pm I left and returned along the same route that had travelled earlier in the day.  Then went to a Christmas function at Beachmere before returning home and having a wonderful long night's sleep.

5W Ladies at Christmas Lunch