Sunday, January 13, 2013


Every Christmas I get a card from my Grade 1 teacher, Sr Carmel - or Mary, as she prefers now.   I had the most magical introduction to schooling under her care.  Our classroom was a house on the same block as the other school buildings.  We had our desks in the loungeroom and used the toilet in the bathroom.  Art activities took place on the front verandah and the sink nearby was handy for washing off brushes.  In the afternoon, we would gather on the side verandah and she would read from Gulliver's Travels.   Our desks were in the lounge room with a blackboard on one wall.  At Easter, she dressed herself in a large rabbit costume and hopped by our desks - or could I have imagined that?!  I do know the Easter baskets we'd so carefully constructed were filled with tiny chocolate eggs to take home at the end of that term.  On our birthdays we knew we'd find a gift in our desks - a set of rosary beads or a holy card.   Back then we still bought stamps for 1 cent 'for the missions' and the stamps had cartoon pictures of the children we thought we were saving.   

She was gentle and kind but would not put up with any rubbish from anyone and I remember once being sent up from the playground to fetch the black belt that hung  behind one of the doors.  I can't remember seeing her use it, perhaps she just threatened punishment.  I behaved very well from the start of school as my older brothers had told me too many stories about getting the 'strap' .  It was true that boys in Grade 4 could still be sent to get 'the cane' from the Principal and that at the all boys' school, the short, thick, leather strap did come down hard on the hands of boys who 'crossed the line'. 

At the end of the year we put on the Nativity play for our parents.  I was incredibly jealous of the classmate who was cast as Mary, purely because she had a new baby brother who could play Jesus.  I did not even make the main cast, instead an extra 'visitor' to see the baby, dressed in our pyjamas and holding our favourite toy.  I brought in a plastic dolly peg baby toy that had a squeaker in it.  The plate I held on to for so long was decorated with a picture of Mary holding the baby Jesus and balloons, for his birthday.   I was very sad to see the end of the year and to leave the lovely house that had been such a secure and happy place.

Sr Carmel (Mary) came to my wedding and comes to my home in the form of a Christmas card each year.  This year it came with a crocheted tea towel that hangs perfectly from my oven door handle.  Keep those cards coming for a few years yet, I'm not ready to let them go.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Don't look at me that way, Doc

Doc came into my life via my Auntie Kathy, who has a knack for picking appealing presents. 
He is a pencil sharpener, but as my younger brother had one too, we used to play with them more than sharpen our pencils. When his paint chipped I simply did my best to re-colour him with paint and crayon.  I don't know if my brother tired of his sharpener but I have two of them.

I don't have any attachment to the story of Snow White or her 7 dwarfs but I am attached to this little guy.  He sits so neatly in the palm or on the shelf.  It's his gaze that captures me and makes it hard to simply toss him in the bin.  I find myself wondering if I found the two of them and put them on a shelf as matching bookends...

Don't look at me that way, Doc.   I'm trying to listen to the bluebird on my shoulder. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Handmade not heirloom

Usually when we went to visit Grandad Bill in Dululu, there was not a lot going on.  We would park at the grass in front of his house and leap out of the car to see if he was home. Usually he wasn't in the house so we would walk across to the Hotel to see if he was in the bar.  If he met us there he would buy a packet of chips and a softdrink for each of us,  something we only had at birthday parties.  It was dark and cool inside the Hotel and the barmaid was always friendly because they knew Grandad well. They knew everyone in that tiny town well.  I loved being put up high to sit on a barstool at the bar. Grandad's quiet voice and raspy chuckle had me hanging on his every word.

Once when we went up to Dululu there was a fete of sorts on, commemorating something of importance in the district.   I bought this puppet with my pocket money and proudly labelled it when we arrived home.  I loved writing my name out.  I thought my special signature made by joining the N and the K together was brilliant.  I was proud that my initials were the same as Dad's and his precise and flowing handwriting fascinated me. When I got married there was no way I was giving that name away.  Having spent my whole young life spelling it for others and correcting their mis-pronounciation it becomes a big badge for who I was.

When I was too old to play with it anymore I kept it because I thought it was cleverly made.  Now I wonder how and where did I manage to keep so many, many things for so long?  When other people leave home and go to Uni and get their first job and move towns and come back and get married do they not take something with them? What do they take and how do they know what to leave behind for good?   

I showed my turtle puppet to my three children but none of them thought too much of it.  Not because they are in another era and jaded by modern, 'blingy' toys but because they've chosen their own objects of significance.   

I'm seeing that it is important to me that my children value the things that they are given, but only while those things are of any use.  Then they need to see that it is just as important to be able to give things away - to let go.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I was a Girl Guide in primary school for one year.  I sewed my  own badges on to an old school shirt of my brother's and set off each Friday evening to the hut just off Lower Dawson Road.  I started in Lyrebird patrol and part way through the year became seconder to Maree, a friend from school.  

There is something about badges that I just love and when I threw this shirt out I confess I kept the metal badges.  I did not mind working my way through many little tasks to earn my yellow trefoil. In my mind the weight of it in my hand at the end of that year matched any effort I'd made. 

Authority had been kind to me in my life thus far and I had no cause to rail against it.  There was something in me that was drawn to taking my own place up the totem pole in any way I could.  I was desperate to be school captain or house captain in primary school but had to settle for parts in the school play.  I joined the Student Council as soon as I could in highschool and when I was made school Vice-Captain in Year 10 I cried in relief as much as joy. 

Year 11 and 12 brought a chance to be on the "SRC" with lunchtime meetings to organise dances and fundraising.  There was no school captain at our progressively organised Senior School and certainly no prefect.   I was more than happy to settle for Co-Convenor of the SRC in Year 12 and have my picture in the local paper.   That was what I wanted to do.   To guide.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Always proud to be a "Senior"

I went to two fantastic high schools.  The first,  "Our Lady of Good Counsel College" was never referred to as anything but  "The Range".   Or, supposedly "The Fridge on the Ridge".   It was years before I had any clue what the local boys were on about .    My mum, two aunts and my mother-in-law all boarded there.  My great aunt and my great aunt-in-law were nuns who lived in the convent at one stage, they were best of friends. 

The centre of the school was a beautiful, old hall built of wood with a tower surrounded in filagree iron lace.   If we were lucky enough we were allowed up to the tower to look out across the school and the town.  When we were in Grade 10 a group of us that liked to call ourselves 'The Rejekts' (because we figured we weren't)  wrote our names in niko pen on the walls of the spiral staircase that took us upwards.   I suspect they were painted over and don't remain for posterity. 

On the eve of my last day there my brother went up to the school in the late of night.  He carried with him a scarecrow that I made out of wood, one of my uniform dresses and a stuffed head I carefully sewed.  The scarecrow was hoisted up the flagpole, ready for my last day.  It stayed there long enough to get a laugh and cause some comment and I was never discovered as the culprit.   I wonder if the teachers had a drink or two around a bonfire later that day, as they watched their 'student' burn?

Now, as a teacher,  the thought makes me laugh as much as it did to think up the whole silly prank in the first place. 


I was ten years old when this cassette compilation came out.  My older brother was thirteen and spent a lot of time playing music very loudly in his room with the door shut.  He taught me how to make mixed tapes and to tape songs off the radio.  We had a  big, black , state of the art wireless radio/double cassette player with a built in microphone which we used to record all sorts of silly rubbish on to tape.

Dad used to listen to the ABC news in the mornings and when the "daah, daah, da Duh, da, da, da, daaaaaaah... " of the news'  intro came on,  it was a signal for myself and my three brothers to quieten down long enough for the bulletin to finish.  

My brother played this tape a lot.  I bought myself a replacement copy when I was at uni and spending a lot of time in record shops buying cheap music.  I bought a Keith Urban tape too but it didn't survive one of my first cassette tape culls.  That was before he made it big in the States and before he married 'our Nic'.  

Listening to "Centrefold"  is contagious and by the time the "nah, nah, na,na, nah, nah"s come along, you'll be singing at the top of your daggiest voice and watch out, could be clapping along too...  I love "Golden Brown" though have no idea what it's about.   "What about me?" might have been covered by "Nollsy" but he wasn't a patch on Moving Pictures.    

If anyone else is struck with a sudden case of nostalgia then feel free to let me know. Before I threw the tape out, my romantic husband hunted down most of the songs via itunes and did a playlist up for me.   Words can't say...

Friday, January 28, 2011

26 plus 7 = 33

My son needed an art smock for Grade 1 this year so I packed him off to school with one of his dad's old shirts.   When I was in Grade 1, my mum did the same.  This poor excuse for a shirt that you see above was my Dad's old work shirt. I was quite short so mum had to cut the tails off and hem it for me.  I used it as my art shirt all through primary school and when it came time to leave in Grade 7 I had everyone I could pin down  sign it for me.  

I had a pretty good go of it at primary school and was genuinely sad to be finishing. Looking at the names and messages I could still read on the shirt brought back happy memories but there were names there that mean not a thing now.  It felt good to throw this one in the wheelie bin.  For so many years I kept this shirt, moving it from place to place with me.  

Re finding these things, photographing them, letting them go - some things are easier than others.  This one was easy.