Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Mum

Today is Mother's Day or should that be Mothers' Day? Probably Mothers' Day since it's the day set aside to honour all Mothers.

My Mother, Roslyn was born on 31st July, 1918, which means she will be 94 years old this year. She lives in an aged-care facility in Perth

As I sit here at my laptop I realise just how little I know about my Mum's early life.

I know that she grew up in Adelaide, South Australia, but what hospital was she born in? Was she even born in a hospital, or was hers a home birth?

I know that her family lived in the Adelaide suburb of Highfield on Highfield Avenue, and I think she has very fond memories of this time in her life. I think this because on a couple of occasions, at her request, I've taken her for a drive past her childhood home. I don't think she would have asked to revisit a place that didn't hold a special place in her heart.
My Mum when she was about 5 years old.
I remember her telling me that at least some of her school years were spent at Linden Park Primary school, which was just a hop step and a jump from her childhood home. She has talked about walking through cow paddocks to get to school.  These days the suburb of Highfield is now the (quite affluent) suburb of St Georges and nary a cow paddock to be seen.

My Mum had an older sister, Marjorie (Madge), an older brother, Jack and a younger sister, Audrey. She idolised Madge and loved and had a great deal of respect for Jack. For some reason there was no love lost between herself and Audrey, a state of affairs which has carried on to this day.
My Mother's adored sister Madge.
During my Mum's childhood her parents had a fish shop. I've heard her talk about the fish shop on Norwood Parade, but I've also heard her talk about a shop on Glen Osmond Road. Did they have two shops at the same time or did they have one and then move to the other location at some other time? In any case I'm fairly certain they were shops of the fishmonger type, rather than fish and chip shops of the take-away meal variety.

I have no idea when my mother's father died. I have never seen a picture of him. I don't even know what his name was or what kind of person he was. Was he a kind dad or one of those dour, autocratic Edwardian types? How old was my Mum when her dad died? As far as I can recall she has not talked about him, so perhaps she was very young when he passed away.

I know a little bit about my Mum's mother, because she was in my life until I was 14 years old.

At some stage during her childhood, my Mum had long hair and I think she may have worn it braided into two long plaits. I know that throughout her adult life she has disliked long hair and detested plaits.  I know this because later she ensured that hair on the heads of her six daughters was kept quite short while they were children. I have never seen my mother with anything but short hair.

I know that my Mum had piano lessons and that she hated them. She has told me that she had to sit in a very cold room to practise and that her fingers would be icy and stiff. I do have a feeling that she regrets not persevering with these lessons though.

I don't know how or when my Mum and Dad met, or how long their courtship was. I know that they got married in November, but I don't know in what year. Alcohol figured prominently in their married life, but not because my Mum drank it. Mum has probably had a total of 20 very weak shandies in her entire life.

I know that when my Mum was a young adult she was a milliner (a person who makes women's hats). I have no idea how she came to this trade. Did she start out as a milliner's apprentice? Was she always interested in hat-making or did she take it up as an alternative to something she was more interested in. I remember that she took up millinery again briefly when she attended night classes for a time when I was a small child.
My Mum and 2 older sisters circa 1955. Mum would have made her dress and those of my sisters. She probably made her hat as well.
My Mum has always been a talented dressmaker and seamstress. I remember her telling me that her mother advised her very early on that if she wanted to wear the latest fashions, she had better learn to make them herself because there was no money to buy them. So make them she did.
My Mum on her 21st birthday, 1939. She would have made her birthday frock.
She also made all the clothes for her daughters and a good many of the clothes for her grandchildren as well. She made everything from knickers to winter overcoats (fully lined I might add) for her daughters and I can still see, in my mind's eye, the work shirts she sewed for my dad too. She also made the costumes for our end-of-year concerts. These involved a great deal of sewing on of sequins.
Me in a pansy costume made by my Mum.
And our Sunday school anniversary concerts meant a new dress for each of us, made of course by our Mum. She was often still putting the finishing touches to them as we were leaving for the church.

Her needlework is exquisite. She has told the story about handing in a piece of her hand sewing to her school teacher and getting a severe telling off for trying to pass off "machine-sewn" work as hand-sewn. I don't think she has ever quite got over the injustice of that incident.

Smocking was something she did regularly, trimming her daughters' little dresses and later the dresses and shirts of her grandchildren.

My son in the shirt my Mum smocked for his first birthday in 1984.
In later life Mum continued her love of needlework, creating beautiful tapestries and cross-stitch pictures.

At almost 94 years of age my Mum's eyesight is very poor, and her fingers are arthritic so that she is no longer able to sew. She is extremely hard of hearing as well, and is only capable of very limited conversations.

My Mum has never smoked, although I do remember her lighting a cigarette for my Dad once when he was driving the car. I can recall her saying that she had, during stressful times, been tempted to take up smoking, but decided each time that there were better things she could be spending her money on - such as a new pair of shoes for one of the children.

I am probably never going to know much more about Mum's early life than I know now. But what I do know is that she was a very, very good mother. She has taught me to love books and writing, to appreciate creativity. She has taught me goodness, honesty, integrity, determination, respect and respectability. She has instilled in me the value of striving to be the best person you can, no matter what curve balls life throws at you.

I love you my Mum. xx

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Passion and Paradise

Books are my passion and libraries are my paradise.
I can remember the very first time I ever joined a library. I was very young. My sisters and I always caught the bus home but, for some reason my Mum met me after school on this particular day. It was possibly a half-holiday. Half-holidays, when granted, were always on a Friday and were to celebrate civic happenings such as Arbour Day or Commonwealth Day. My 2 older sisters who are 6 and 4 years older than me, weren't with us. They had probably been allowed to walk home, or perhaps they had taken their bikes that day.

Anyway, Mum had decided that the time had come for me to become a library patron. The library was just across the road from school and when I visited Adelaide a couple of years ago I found to my delight that the building is still there.

However when I crossed the road to take a photo of the foundation stone, this is what I found:

Well I distinctly remember joining that library in the mid-1950s, but the foundation stone says it was officially opened in 1980. Surely it didn't take the city fathers over 30 years to finally give it an official opening! Hmm ... this will require some looking into I think.

I can remember the first book I chose in that library. It was this,
but when I showed it to Mum, she gently told me that I would probably be too difficult for me to read and I had to put it back. I can't remember what I did borrow, but for some reason this book has remained firmly lodged in my memory. Many, many years later I found a copy of it in one of those sales of culled library books and I bought it for 50 cents. So I finally did get to read it. It was a good story. These days you can still buy a copy of this book from Alibris  and it will cost $26.74

The other thing that sticks in my memory about this library is that it wasn't free. You actually had to pay to borrow a book. For children it was 1 penny per book. This is what a penny looked like :
I don't remember any other trips to this library. Maybe there weren't any. Perhaps a penny couldn't be spared very often. I do vaguely recall Mum saying something about borrowing from the Children's Library in the city being free and my next memories of library borrowing are of the Children's Library. Yep, that was my Mum - pay threepence 

to catch the bus to the city so that you can borrow books for free, rather than go to a closer library and have to pay one penny to borrow a book. To be fair, I imagine her thinking was that you could borrow multiple books for free at the Children's Library whereas at the penny library each individual book cost a penny to borrow. I must say I'm very glad she thought that way.

Oh how I loved that Children's Library! It was situated off North Terrace. Walking down the mysterious lane-way, to get to the library seemed to me to be an adventure in itself. Here were the back entrances to the adult library, the museum and the art gallery. Did it go down as far as the university? I'm not sure. Eventually I would arrive at the library's entrance and it was not just an ordinary entrance. Heavens no.

Firstly there was the portal to be passed through. Yes a magnificent stone portal! What better metaphor for being transported into other worlds could there possibly be than a stone portal, I ask you. The State Library of South Australia has kindly granted me permission to post the following photo taken circa 1960.
So, through the portal, across the courtyard, under the balcony and into the delights of shelves of books I'd go. Here I became friends with, among others,  Pippy Longstocking, The Secret Seven, and The Melendy family

Some years later a new children's library was built, but to me, it didn't seem to have the same magical allure as the old Children's library, or even the penny library. I loved it almost as much though. Well, it was new, it was easier to get to and it too, had wonderful books, 

Those experiences were the beginning of my life-long love affair with libraries and with children's literature. 

So dear children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren now you know why (after a couple of false starts career-wise) I eventually became a teacher-librarian.

One of my favourite quotes comes from Gabriel Garcia Marquez who said:

"I've always imagined heaven to be a kind of library." I hope it is.

Monday, February 20, 2012

My (Reading) Childhood

Here I am back again after a very long time away from this space. Another birthday has gone by and yet another is lurking on the (not distant enough) horizon. Daughter and Son, Grandchildren, and now, Great-Grandchildren, I can absolutely assure you that the time between birthdays does get shorter the older you get. I can also tell you that when you get to my age it is entirely possible that you may not view this as a "good thing".

But that's by the by.

This year is the National Year of Reading here in Australia all sorts of fantastic activities have been planned to encourage us all to read. I myself need no encouragement and I have my Mum to thank for my love of stories, books and reading. I've been an avid reader since ... well since ... I learnt to readBefore I learnt to read I listened to stories. 

I don't remember my Mum reading to me, but I do remember that she ensured that our radio was tuned in to the ABC for Kindergarten of the Air each day when I was a toddler, and I think these are my first memories of hearing stories. I can still recall the delicious feeling of anticipation as I heard the words "Once upon a time ...". I get that same feeling these days, whenever I open a new novel to the first page.

This is a picture from the ABC's Pool website. The child isn't me of course, but I imagine I would have looked as transfixed as this little one did, when listening to Kindergarten of the Air. Our radio (which was called "the wireless" back then) was very similar, but it was made of dark brown Bakelite

My Mum also made sure that my sisters and I were surrounded by books at home. Every Christmas each of us would get a new one. That's how I discovered Noddy and Big Ears (Enid Blyton), Milly-Molly-Mandy (Joyce Lankester Brisley), and the Susan series (Jane Shaw) among lots of others.

There were always magazines and newspapers strewn about our house too. Mum would buy the Women's Weekly and the New Idea, which incidentally did usually feature some new ideas - unlike the celebrity gossip stuff it's filled with these days. These had children's sections which generally had a short story or two in them. 

Did we have comics? I vaguely remember reading Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse comics, but they may have belonged to my boy cousins. They had big piles of them stashed under their bunk beds. I used to wish I had both of those things - piles of comics and a bunk bed to stash them under.

There's one thing I am certain of, and that is that our childhood home was filled with literature of one kind or another thanks to our wonderful Mum.

Then there was the Library ... but that's a story for next week's post.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Birthdays and Beatles

It's my birthday today! It's a big one too. 

Yesterday was my sister's birthday. Hers wasn't as big as mine thoughHere we are back in the sixties:
My sister

A long time ago I had my 14th birthday in the week that the Beatles came to (Adelaide) town. I'd venture to say that that particular week was the most exciting and memorable birthday week I've ever had.

The lead up to this momentous event had been a roller-coaster of emotions for Adelaide fans.

First of all ...  shock! horror! ... it was announced that Adelaide had not been included in the Beatles' Australian itinerary! How could this be? It was absolutely devastating! These days if an act as big as the Beatles (are there any?) decided not to visit a particular city, the fans would just hop on a plane and take themselves to the nearest place they were playing. But things were not so easy back in the day. For starters, the cost of a plane ticket was way out of the reach of all, except politicians and business tycoons.

Thank heavens for Bob Francis a local DJ, who organised a petition with the aim of convincing the promoters to add Adelaide to the Australian tour. Eighty-thousand signatures were obtained, which had the desired effect of persuading the organisers that maybe Adelaide was worth including in the itinerary after all.

Well ... the tickets to the 2 concerts sold out in, what seemed like, the blink of an eye ... so many disappointed fans. Then ... hooray! The Department store, John Martin's of Christmas Pageant fame, stepped into the breach and sponsored a further two concerts.

The picture below is from the book "The Beatles in Australia" by Mark Hayward and shows people camped in a long queue outside the department store for days before the tickets went on sale ... but ... our Mum (who will be 92 next month) got up very early on the day, caught a bus into the city, parked herself in the queue ... and ... managed to get tickets! She got them for me, 2 of my sisters and 2 of our friends. We were ecstatic, needless to say!

                                                      My Mum is in this queue somewhere.

Then there were rumours that Ringo was ill and the tour would be cancelled! There was endless speculation about this ... he was sick, he was dying, he wasn't sick, it was just a rumour, he's sick, he's collapsed, he's not sick, he hasn't collapsed, they're not coming, they are are coming ... it was terribly stressful being 14 at that point in time ...

As it happened Ringo had been taken ill, but the tour was going ahead anyway. A drummer by the name of Jimmy Nicol was coming with the other three and would perform in Ringo's place at the 4 Adelaide concerts. History shows that Ringo's absence didn't diminish the enthusiasm of the welcome the Beatles received in Adelaide.

This grainy video captures some of that excitement.

I'd sprained my ankle playing netball the previous Saturday, so I was home from school the day they arrived. I was able to listen to the live radio broadcast of events as they unfolded. I'm not sure why I didn't watch it on TV. Maybe the technology of the time wasn't yet up to beaming live footage into our lounge-rooms? The downside to that, of course, was that I had to hobble to the concert (my very first rock concert!) on a bandaged (and very painful) foot. 

We were seated in Row DD at Centennial Hall. We couldn't see much and could hear very little except screaming, but it was the most fantastic experience. And what a birthday present! 
I still marvel at the thought of my little Mum lining up to buy us tickets to a rock concert. It says a lot about the appeal the Beatles had across all ages, but I think it says a tremendous amount more about my Mum and her love for all of her (6) girls. 

So ... thank you my gorgeous Mum. You are absolutely the best.

If you were listening carefully to the above video, you would have heard John Lennon being asked if he'd noticed that there were a lot of adults, especially grandmas in the crowds lining the route from the airport into the city. His reply was: "Well I've never seen so many grandmas at once."

Well guess what Beatles, your adoring school-girl fans from way back when are the grandmas now and ...  today ... I've entered a new kind of sixties decade.

Where did all those years go?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

ANZAC Day - A Tribute.

Today is ANZAC Day. It's the day we commemorate the disastrous landing of Australian and New Zealand troops on the shores of Gallipoli in 1915.

My father was a born in 1914 at the beginning of The Great War and my mother would enter the world 4 years later, as the 'war to end all wars' was drawing to a close. My father's younger brother, whom the family called Fred, would be born 5 years after my father, on 21 May, 1919.

As we all know of course, The Great War did not turn out to be 'the war to end all wars' and, sadly, the folk of my parents' generation were to find this out all too soon. The Great War became known as World War I and my parents' war, as World War II

None of my father's children (6 daughters) got to meet Uncle Fred.

The 2/10th Battalion was the first South Australian battalion formed for the Second AIF. It formally came into being on 13 October 1939. Uncle Fred enlisted on 6 November, 1939 aged 20.
This picture is from the Australian War Memorial website and shows the 2/10th training at Ingleburn in NSW in 1940 before departure for England.

The Australian War Memorial website gives an account of the 2/10th's history stating that the battles it fought in Papua "were its most bitter and costly."

The  website states that "the 2/10th arrived at Milne Bay on 12 August 1942 and on the night of 27 August was overwhelmed by Japanese marines in a confused battle. The battalion fared even worse in its next engagement – Buna. Between 23 December and 2 January 1943 the 2/10th lost 113 men killed and 205 were wounded in often ill-conceived attacks against Japanese bunkers around the old airstrip. The 2/10th’s final engagement in Papua was at Sanananda between 9 and 24 January 1943." 

Uncle Fred was killed on 21 January 1943. 

My mother has often told the story of Uncle Fred and his mate Jimmy enlisting and serving together. Apparently Jimmy died just before Fred, perhaps in the Buna battle. Family lore has it that after Jimmy died Fred was distraught. He felt that he didn't want to go on and began to engage in the risky behaviour, which resulted in his own death a few weeks later.
These pictures are also from the Australian War Memorial website. The one above was taken at Milne Bay, Gili Gili, Papua New Guinea in October, 1942. The one below shows Australian troops as they plough through mud and slush in the heart of New Guinea on their way out of a forward area for a well-earned spell.
I wish Uncle Fred could have hung on for a little longer.  But ... imagine ... having fought the war for almost 4 years, you lose your best mate while fighting a ruthless enemy,  in conditions unimaginable to most of us, and not knowing where or when it would all end ... well I think I'd want to give up too.

The 2/10th returned home on 12 March 1943, just 7 weeks after Uncle Fred died.

So Uncle Fred, we didn't get to know you, but judging by your brothers and sisters, I'm sure you were a lovely young man. You were certainly a very brave young man. There can be no denying that.

So little is known of your early life. What were your interests? What did you love to do as a boy, as a teenager, before the War took you away forever? We'll probably never know now. 

I hope you and Jimmy have been resting in peace all these years, knowing that you fought ... and saved the greatest country on earth. 

One thing is for sure ... age shall not weary you, nor the years condemn. 

Thank you.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Couscous and Messages

Yesterday (Saturday) I went grocery shopping. This would have to be one of my most unfavourite things to do.  I really resent spending good money on trivialities ... like food.

Anyway, as I was struggling up the aisle with the stupid shopping trolley (let me just say here that I firmly believe that shopping trolleys were invented by men for the sole purpose of crippling the whole of womankind), I overheard a young teenager talking on his mobile phone:

"I've found the couscous," he roared. "Yeah I've found it! ...  Yeah, yeah ... d'ya want anything to go with the couscous?" .... Well ... it might be a bit bland on it's own..."

This one-sided conversation replayed itself in my mind over and over during the course of the day and gave me much pause for thought.

I mean ... who had any inkling that young teenage boys (whose voices are still rising and falling at the whim of their hormones) were au fait with words like "bland" ... and ... "couscous", for heavens sake. Hell's bells, I only discovered couscous myself, five minutes ago.

This got me thinking again about how things were when I was a child.

Children in 1950s suburban Australia did something called "the messages". This activity took place after school. It entailed hopping on your bike ... if you were lucky enough to have one ... otherwise you took something called "Shank's pony" ... and heading off to the corner shop, clutching a coin purse, a string-bag and a list written on the back of an envelope  in your hot, sweaty paw.

This is a bit like what a string bag looked like back then.

The corner shop ... usually called "the grocer" ... stocked all manner of food items and they were all stored on shelves behind the counter ... no impulse buying in those days. You handed your list to the Grocer or maybe the Grocer's wife, and stood and waited while your string-bag was packed with the things on the list. And ... you can bet your sweet bippy that couscous wouldn't have been in there. 

Your after school shopping list usually contained things like a packet of Nurses Cornflour or a half a pound of brown sugar, or maybe even a half a dozen eggs, because the chooks had gone off the lay. The sugar would be scooped out of a huge container and skillfully poured into a brown paper bag, the top of which would be neatly folded over a couple of times and snappily sealed with sticky-tape. The eggs would be individually wrapped in several layers of newspaper, so that they wouldn't break as they were carried home in the string-bag, swinging from the handlebars of your bike.

However, there were some things you were rarely sent to the corner shop for such as bread and milk, because these were delivered right to your doorstep every week-day. 

Our grocery shop was called ... if I'm remembering correctly ... Tyson's ... and was about a kilometre and a half from our house. If you lost your list or forgot what you had to get, you had to go back home and be reminded ... no mobile phones, of course. Heavens, we didn't even have a landline back then.

I was in Adelaide late last year and went to visit some of the spots I remembered from my childhood.

This is how Tyson's looks today. Alas, no longer a corner shop ... it of course, got swallowed up in the maw of the gigantic supermarket conglomerates which began making their presence felt in Australia in the early 1960s

Such a quaint building. To think that it was once a  thriving little business, run by people who knew their customers by name, and who probably prided themselves in personalised, efficient service. 

And ... all without a single bone-jarring, muscle-twisting shopping trolley in sight!

Sigh ... It does make me yearn for the good old days.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I'm Back!

Yes that's right ... I am back.

A few things have driven me back this way at this particular time.

The first one is a biggy ... GUILT! Does one need to feel guilty about not posting to one's blog for  ... can it really be ... almost 10 months?  I don't know, but I DO feel guilty. Not surprising perhaps, given that I can feel guilty about THE most trivial things ... eg ... indulging myself by doing things I actually like doing instead of putting them off until I've done all the necessary things, which of course, happen to be things which I don't like doing.

The second thing is that, recently I was reading a post on a list that I subscribe to, about  someone who is conducting research into how many abandoned blogs there might be out there in cyberspace. Quick ... get back there ... I thought to myself ... who wants to be featured in someone's research as a "blog abandoner"?  Not me that's for sure.

The next thing to happen was a disaster with a bottle of soy sauce ... on April Fool's Day ... when else? That caused me to wonder why the hell they don't bottle soy sauce in plastic like they do every other damn thing!

That got me thinking about the kind of things I have in my pantry as compared to the kind of things my Mum had in her cupboard when I was a child.

This and a bottle of Worcestershire  sauce would almost certainly have been the only sauces she had. Whereas, I seem to have multitudes, which is probably why the soy fell out and smashed to smithereens when I opened the pantry door on April Fool's Day. 

Anyway, then I got to thinking about my blog and my rationale for creating it in the first place; which was to look back on how life was for me when I was a child, as compared to how life is for me, my children and grandchildren in this day and age. 

Coming fast on the heels of all the above lines of thought, was the realisation that I seem to have retired from full time paid employment ... quite unintentionally. This means I don't have any money ... BUT ... I do have ... wait for it ... SPARE TIME! This means I can indulge in things I like doing more often, because I've managed to get the things I don't like doing, done ... well sort of anyway.

One of the things I really like doing is Scrapbooking and I recently came across an ebook called "How to Make Money Scrapbooking" which I found very inspiring. So, I've decided to see if I can do this ... i.e. start a home-based business and make a success of it.

To help keep me motivated I've created another blog, "Nettie's Nook" which will be, I hope, a chronicle of my successful career as a business owner.

Wander over and have a look at Nettie's Nook and let me know what you think.