Advent Calendar: Day 4 – Christmas Lights & Illuminations

The Christmas light prompt is: Some families string up a few lights each year while others go nuclear and are destined to force their neighbours into a brown out situation. Did your family put up lights and outdoor decorations around Christmas time? What about the neighbours? And was it a favourite family activity to drive around to look at Christmas lights? What about any local attractions such as parks, zoos and the like which put up displays of lights and outdoor decorations?

Christmas Lights in Darwin 2012

Christmas Lights in Darwin 2012: a very Aussie set of lights with Santa and his snow white boomers (kangaroos) in lieu of reindeer.

As a child, lights were mainly restricted to shops and city streets. With long summer nights the further south you go, the less the impact of house or street lighting, unlike colder climates where the sparkle of lights everywhere brightens the darkness and the spirits.

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A Christmas window display in the David Jones’ window in Sydney 2006.

Instead it was traditional in those long-ago years to visit the city and see the wonderful Christmas displays (including pretty illumination and moving models) in the windows of our big department stores, like Myer or David Jones (or McWhirter or TC Beirnes). At different times we’ve seen similar window displays in Sydney as well and even in Dublin. Still I think that amazement that one has as a child remains untouched. It’s still lovely to see them but it’s just not as awe-inspiring.

I have no recollection of any houses displaying lights as happens today. It’s only in recent times (relatively) that the Christmas lights tours have taken off. We’ve only been checking out the Darwin lights for a few years and now regret we hadn’t realised the extent of the displays earlier.

christmas-lights-300x300For our family, Christmas lights were probably as much about the Christmas Carols by Candlelight which we attended every year for decades, even when our littlest was only a few weeks old. It was so atmospheric to be in a park singing away to the performers on the stage and with candles swaying. Quite beautiful and helped to define Christmas and our own family’s tradition. Unfortunately, to our minds, the Carols by Candlelight became increasingly commercialised and tacky so we ended up no longer attending in person.

However one tradition that remains is that we watch Carols by Candlelight from the Myer Music Bowl on Christmas Eve: it’s our only Christmas television tradition. Sometimes all the chores are done and we’re chilled out, some years it’s still a mad panic to get presents wrapped. Whatever the day brings, we find the enthusiasm of the crowd is infectious, and the camera crews always manage to find some super-cute babies to profile in their vision.

I was quite astonished today to discover that the Carols by Candlelight tradition started in Australia –well at least according to Wikipedia. Perhaps that’s because our climate is more conducive to spending hours out doors at that time of the year.

This post combines several topics for the Advent Calendar: Christmas lights, Christmas TV/Movies and a dab of Christmas Tradition. The 2011 topic was slightly different focusing on outdoor decorations: you can read my post here.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

Advent Calendar 2013: Day 5 – Christmas Recipes (and food)

christmas-recipe-200x300I’d guess that for many of us, one of the key elements of celebrating Christmas is the sharing of food with family and/or friends. No wonder then that the topic for Day 5 (I’m late, again!) is Christmas Recipes. The prompt: The smell of cookies baking in the oven or perhaps mulled wine on the stove top. What are your favorite recipes during Christmastime? Are they different than the Christmas foods your mother made? What about your ancestors – what were their favorite recipes and Christmas foods? Share your favorite recipe and the story behind it.

After seeing the delicious pavlova as the feature image my thoughts are straying to a new tradition. Maybe we’ll have pavlova this year, along with a new easy-peasy recipe from a friend for marinated fresh fruit.

Smell is definitely a powerful memory invoker, and the smell of cooking and baking in the kitchen echoes down the years, no doubt aided by my own repetition of the same cooking and baking. So what foods does Christmas bring to mind? Well shortbread is right near the top and I always use my paternal grandmother’s recipe. The trick is cooking it just right, not too dark, not too light, not too soft and just crunchy right.

Of course Christmas cakes are in a league of their own because the fragrances are so pervasive: spices, rum, fruit, all marinading to perfection before being baked for hours, filling the house with even more wonderful aromas.

Green Peppercorn Xmas cake recipe from the Australian Women's Weekly (I think) circa 1990

Green Peppercorn Xmas cake recipe from the Australian Women’s Weekly (I think) circa 1990

As I mentioned in 2011 I always cooked the same recipe as my mother. It’s deliciously moist and fruity….a Christmas cake really has to be moist in my opinion. And then I defected: I found an unusual recipe (above) which is perfect for those who like something different and even spicier. For a while I cooked both cakes but eventually settled on the Green Peppercorn cake.

This may be the first year in over 40, when I no longer cook a cake – though perhaps I’ll weaken: maybe I should consult the family. I love Christmas Cake but it no longer loves me and, getting ahead on the topics, is more foe than friend these days, sadly. Christmas pudding, complete with sixpences and threepences, was a feature of all my childhood Christmases and again has been something I’ve cooked for over 40 years.

However we’ve also started a new family tradition with tiramisu for dessert and that has largely overtaken the fan club for pudding. My grandmother’s and mother’s recipe makes two puddings so I’ve had one frozen since last year, half of which has gone to my mother, and the other half will likely satisfy those who hang out for Christmas pudd.

The main Christmas course is where the changes have come to pass over time. We might still have a roast but it’s more likely to be on Christmas Eve with cold slices for lunch on the big day. In my childhood the roast would be chicken which was then expensive and not eaten often, unlike today. Our own preference has turned to roast pork, cooked in the oven or the BBQ, ironically a nod back to my Kunkel ancestor’s heritage.

Ham is always on the menu too, but the feature is now the fresh prawns from the trawlers that come into Darwin around this time of the year, with an entrée of Coffin Bay oysters which our son-in-law prepares. So much more suitable in a tropical climate, even in the air-conditioning. As a child the Christmas table would always include lollies, nuts and crystallised ginger (one of my mother’s favourites). These days we have “only” a tiny sample of lollies and nuts, and some yummy Swiss chocolates.

For Christmas Dad would have a beer, a relatively unusual event as his mother, living next door and a good Presbyterian, didn’t approve. For years our own family would make Sangria as the day’s tipple, along with a fruit punch for the kids. But I’ve diverted from recipes to food: the joys and memories of Christmases past.

Why not pop over to my Tropical Territory blog and see some of those delicious spices where they are grown in Zanzibar. It was so interesting to see them outside the Masterfoods spice bottle.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

Advent Calendar: Day 6 – Santa Claus

santa-cookies-milkThe Prompt for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2013, Day 6, is Santa Claus. Geneabloggers prompt says “Today is the Feast of Saint Nicholas and the origin of Santa Claus. What are your memories of Santa Claus and waiting for him to come at Christmas? What does Santa mean to you today and how do you pass along that meaning to family and to others?

Post your best Santa story and your memories of Christmases past.”

I wrote a little about my own memories of Santa as a child in the ACCM 2011. During my teens I also had penfriends, one of whom came from the Netherlands, and that was my first exposure to Saint Nicholas and the different gift-giving traditions. We still have a book we bought for our children which tells the stories of Christmas celebrations world-wide.

In my 2011 story I made a passing reference to the different ways our children had experienced Santa’s arrival. On reflection it’s also interesting because I suspect that Santa has been nudged out of schools in our multi-cultural, religiously diverse society even though the kids still sing Christmas songs at pre-school, at least. Our youngest grandchild recently sang of Santa in his red, red hat, carrying a sack. The kids were just oh so cute, but of course privacy prevents including their photos here. Meanwhile the family’s littlies are preparing their Santa lists and sending our letters with their wishes.

However back to a “best Santa story”. When we lived in Port Moresby one of my work colleagues invited us to a Christmas party hosted by their club or society. I no longer have the faintest idea which club it actually was, but a great troop of people travelled by various boats to one of Moresby’s offshore islands where everyone had fun in the sun, swimming, playing in the sand, getting sunburnt, and having one or two cold beers and a picnic.

The highlight of the day was Santa’s arrival by small single-engined aircraft, in fact the very one I took flying lessons on a year or two later. Having landed the red-robed gentleman made his way up the beach where small children rushed to greet him. Our eldest, then about five, was among the forefront of the fan club. The sheer delight and admiration on her face as she walked along the beach holding Santa’s hand and swinging it back and forth, devotedly looking up at him, is an image that’s very precious to both of us.

Santa arrives by fire engine at Boroko East Pre-School in Port Moresby 1977.

Santa arrives by fire engine at Boroko East Pre-School in Port Moresby 1977. The children combined it with a fancy-dress day.

Our younger daughter was far more cautious and only reluctantly reached from Mum’s arms to snatch her present from Santa. She wasn’t about to trust any stranger in such cold-weather clothes! She was far happier when they undid their parcels with their red-dressed Barbie dolls but it didn’t change her opinion of Santa that year.

Unfortunately while we have it on old Super 8 film (and now on DVD) we don’t have a still of it, so your imaginations will have to suffice. I really do need to learn how to take still clips from movies.

Since I don’t have a photo of the flying Santa I’ll make do with one of Santa’s arrival at pre-school in a red, red fire-truck to go with his red, red suit.

Did your family leave cookies/biscuits and milk out for Santa and carrots for his reindeer? I never did as a child, but we did in a low-key way with our children.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

Advent Calendar: Christmas Music

christmas-music-02-209x300The prompts for the Advent Calendar’s Christmas Music topic are: Christmas carols, church music and even more modern novelty songs are all a big part of our Christmas memories. What songs were your favorites as a child and are they still your favorites or do you have new ones? What about your parents or family members – were there certain songs or types of Christmas music played during the season? And how would you describe the type of Christmas music you like?

My grandmother owned a gramophone (which I’ve now inherited) but I don’t recall her having any Christmas music for it – perhaps that was to do with her more serious Presbyterian upbringing. I guess we listened to carols on the radio but to be honest I have no clear memory of doing so. It was at church where carols were sung, old favourites like Adeste Fidelis and Silent Night.…there wasn’t a lot of musical diversification, and the very religious hymns were the staff and clefs of Christmas music (well I couldn’t say bread and butter, now could I?).

Nor did we have a parish choir to lead us, in contrast to the rather grand choir we heard at Christmas Eve Mass in Lucerne in 1989.  The rise and fall of voices and the grandeur of the organ were a huge contrast to our usual experiences. Another form of music happened after Mass, as well as on Christmas morning. The pealing of bells around the lake is a distinctive memory which seems to fit perfectly with a winter’s day. In Australia church bells are rarely rung, and I suspect there’d be riots if the bells pealed across the night sky at Christmas.

Mum was always a great one for singing around the house so I guess that would have happened at Christmas, yet I don’t remember it specifically at Christmas – perhaps just the fabric of day-to-day life. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she’s just been taking part in the choir at the retirement village where’s she recently relocated. Unfortunately I didn’t inherit her singing voice but at least I knew the rhythm and words, unlike Dad who was tone deaf.

When I passed Junior (Year 10, aged 14) I was given a portable record player as an achievement present. This opened up our musical repertoire and I remember clearly hearing Oh Tannenbaum for the first time and being thrilled that I could make sense of some of the words, thanks to my German classes. It was a thrill to be able to listen to whatever music we liked whenever we liked. Mum was particularly fond of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas.

One of our first Christmas albums as a couple.

One of our first Christmas albums as a couple, now well into its 40th decade.

One of our earliest Christmas LP purchases as a married couple was Nana Mouskouri’s Christmas record and I fell in love with Little Drummer Boy and Mary’s Boy Child. Feliz Navidad entered the family’s music lexicon quite a few years later and I love its exuberance and sense of celebration.

In some respects my Christmas music preferences have reverted to their origins. My favourite music is now the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, Joy to the World and serious choral performances like the album we have of the Oxford Boys Choir.

We store our Christmas CDs with the decorations, so once the tree goes up (which will happen this weekend) we will bring out the CDs as well and start playing them. The two go together because our family tradition is that carols must be played as the tree is decorated.

If you’re interested you can find my 2011 Christmas Music post here. The questions that year were slightly different so it has a very slightly different spin, appropriately for music.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: Oh Tannenbaum

Advent calendar 2Today is the first in the 2013 series of Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories. I participated in the series in 2011 so thought I might have another go-around this year though some posts may simply be link-backs to earlier topics.

Gum Tree Christmas and bride doll.

Gum Tree Christmas and bride doll.

In our family the Christmas tree has changed over my lifetime. As a child it was always a branch of a small gum (eucalyptus) tree from down near the neighbourhood creek, or perhaps even a small tree. Because it was live we only put the tree up in the days before Christmas. It infused the house with the distinctive fragrance of eucalyptus oil. It’s strange how memory works because I have no recollection of the process though there was definitely ceremony attached and I was always involved in the decorating.

Our fake pine tree, DD1 and 2, Port Moresby 1977

Our fake pine tree, DD1 and 2, Port Moresby 1977

As a young married couple we followed the tradition of branches of live trees, like the casuarina. It was decorated with indestructible baubles in bright 1970s colours and cheap trade-store ornaments, many of which lasted decades. Later on we moved to a plastic, pseudo-pine tree which did look the part. No doubt we bought it at one of the Chinese trade stores in Port Moresby though I’m not sure which.

Another generation discovers the Xmas tree -and an original bauble from 1970.

Another generation discovers the Xmas tree -and an original bauble from 1970.

That tree followed our family back to Australia and through our children’s growing up. It remained in Brisbane when we moved to the Territory and eventually was retired from service by daughter #2 a few years ago as even a fake tree loses its needles after decades.

Meanwhile we progressed through another two trees thanks to the services of a small furry creature who thought having an indoor climbing adventure, complete with tempting trinkets, was just the ticket! We downsized to a small one for just the empty nesters, then upsized again as the grandchildren came along.

For as long as I can recall we’ve put our tree up around our youngest daughter’s birthday in early December, and taken it down for mine, in early January. It is definitely a family tradition so I smiled quietly to myself when I heard her telling our grandsons yesterday that they would put their tree up next weekend. Of such things are memories and traditions made.

Xmas delight

Xmas delight -first sighting of the tree. c1973

It’s also traditional that Christmas carols must be played during the decorating of the tree, and each person in the house contributes to hanging the decorations, even if someone else occasionally relocates a particular bauble. The tree inevitably had the addition of children’s craft decorations from preschool and school, some of which have survived over time and some which fell apart.

Wherever we travel, especially in the prelude to Christmas, we purchase Christmas decorations, and every time we declare “no more”, “that’s enough”, so I won’t tell you that on our recent trips to Kenya and Brisbane, our bauble stocks increased. Perhaps we should start an A to Z of Christmas baubles and where they were bought!

The cat contributes by downsizing our somewhat excessive decorations with a niftily turned paw and claw. It’s also amazing how much neater the house looks as soon as the busyness of trees and decorations cease in January. But nothing says Christmas is on its way like a beautifully decorated tree, and nothing makes kids’ eyes sparkle like all that bling.

This is my link-back to my original Christmas Tree post.

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.

A tale of threes

Sepia Saturday 191They say “two is company and three is a crowd” and there are times when that can feel quite true. Growing up as an only child, it was easy at times to feel odd one out, or conversely to lend allegiance to one or the other parent: a triangulation of emotions. Envy of those with siblings, bouncing around them like puppies, was not uncommon and yet, once accustomed to, a change in the sibling status would have been a shock to the system, however much wished for or welcomed.

Scared of a camera...me?

Scared of a camera…me?

On reflection it seems that the number three was destined to play a significant role in my life.

Throughout high school I had two best girlfriends to share the highs and lows of those teenaged years in an all-girls school.

Joan Pauleen and Norman Kunkel query Anzac Sq crop

Different tertiary paths eroded the friendship but two of us remained, and a new one was added –the boyfriend, now husband. Broader friendships were formed but at the core those two.

Then over the years we were to have three daughters to brighten our lives and keep us on our toes.

The three sisters in front of the rock formation in the Blue Mountains called the Three Sisters.

The three sisters in front of the rock formation in the Blue Mountains called the Three Sisters.

Now we have three grandchildren, delightful all, with the gender distribution changed to two boys and a girl.

Isn’t it strange how “fate” follows you around, and in my case, three has been a recurring theme. Comparing these photos with the Sepia Saturday one, it struck me that in mine, the balance is different: the youngest has centre place in every one with the older family members providing a protective barrier.

Why not have a look at what other Sepians have had to say about threes.

Guest post by Sir Springer the Cat

Did anyone tell you I’ve returned home?

Peter and Springer lowMum & Dad were apparently terribly agitated and very sad that they’d never ever see me again: they cried and cried and put posters in hundreds of letter boxes but no one had seen me. Lucky for me the cat gods were looking after me and I’m perfectly safe, if a little wiser.

I came home on the evening before my 7th birthday, Anzac Day. I’d been away for 7 weeks, one week for every year of my life (well in human terms anyway). They say that marriages have seven year itches, and people have mid-life crises, well I was turning 49 in cat years and I think that called for a crisis of its own. I just didn’t expect it wouldn’t be much fun. I don’t like to frighten my family so I haven’t told Mum & Dad all the things that happened, and they’re really not very good at understanding cat language, so I just look deeply into their eyes instead and purr and do paddy-paws.

What happened was that Mum was in Brisbane, Dad was at work and I just felt like a little adventure. I was tired of being home by myself – I’m used to company while Mum works on the computer. My friend Slinky Malinky, a black cat who I’ve been playing with lots, dropped by and we were running and playing in the yards nearby.

Springer_edited-1lowThen I got a terrible fright – a scary person I didn’t like tried to catch me and I hid. Later on some big dogs chased me –there’s far too many of those creatures around here!  I ran and ran so fast to get away from them and I had to dodge the cars as I raced across a big street. By the time I stopped I just didn’t know where I was, even though I know some of the streets from when we go to the vets or the cat resort.

For a couple of weeks I just wandered around trying to find my way home, getting more and more lost and hungry even though I managed to catch a couple of mice in the parks. One day when I was nearly starving a kind lady offered me some milk and food so I just decided to trust her for a couple of weeks. She hadn’t seen any of the posters my family had put up in the shops so she didn’t know to ring them and instead she called the pound to come and get me.

I’m lucky I’m so handsome because they tried to find my home by ringing all sorts of people. Even though they had my picture on their wall they didn’t realise it was me, because my face looked a bit less ginger in that photo. None of the people they called were my family and they went home looking very sad. After I’d been there nearly 2 weeks,  they called Mum and told her they just might have me, even though they couldn’t find my microchip…I think it must have fallen out. Was I big cat? Had I been desexed? Yes, what do I know about girls?! It’s not as if I’d run away just to chase some girl. Mind you, I liked to have met the girl cat who’s missing from near here and who looks a lot like me…she looks nice.

Of course I look smug -I'm home!

Of course I look smug -I’m home!

Mum arrived at the pound and she told me her legs were shaking all the way there and she kept praying it would be me. When they took her into the cat room we just looked at each other but after she opened the door and leant in, I gave her my favourite head-butt of affection. We both knew I was going home! The ladies from the pound and PAWS were so excited they had tears in their eyes.

Ever since we got home I’ve been so happy to be here. I can’t get enough pats and cuddles and keep sitting as close as possible to my family and purring and purring. I even like the grandchildren now.

I don’t want to be aloof any more, I’ve had my fill of adventure. When either of my family sits down I jump straight up and join them for a cuddle. I even sleep on the end of the bed now and if I feel lonely I can go up and ask for more pats. Mum says my eyes look a bit different now – of course they do! I saw some scary stuff out there in the wilds of the suburb.

I’m done with my mid-life crisis, I just want to be safe at home. Every now and then I look out at the courtyard but it’s a scary world out there, and inside everyone loves me. You’d think I was a celebrity the way my family has turned into the paparazzi and take my photo at every turn. And everywhere my parents go people are just so thrilled that I made it home safely – and so am I.

Mum wants to get in on the act now, but I don’t mind because we’re such good mates.

Mr Cassmob & I are so grateful for the kindness of all our friends and the random strangers we bailed up to ask about Springer. The TELAF people were fabulous in keeping Springer’s photo in the missing list for people to see and the RSPCA, PAWS and the pound were all responsive to our requests for follow-up. We’re eternally grateful to have our boy back safe and sound and especially thank the unknown lady who looked after him in Holtze St as well as the PAWS ladies at the pound who called us to come and look. People have been so kind. 

(Thanks to Geniaus for the guest post idea).

Sepia Saturday: Paper…Expo…read all about it

Sepia Saturday 174Even though I had some photos which suited this week’s theme, they just didn’t seem to have a thread to draw them together – other than one of us reading the newspaper. I had decided I would pass on this theme, when a related sub-theme came to mind. It just didn’t occur to me until this morning that the event in question would commence its 25th anniversary tomorrow.Expo88catologo

1988 was Australia’s Bicentennial year, celebrating 200 years of white settlement and Australia as it’s come to be today. From an Indigenous point of view it was certainly contentious and perhaps was also a turning point in the debate about the impact of settlement and colonisation on the country’s indigenous peoples.

Sydney Harbour, Australia Day 1988

Sydney Harbour, Australia Day 1988

Overall it was a year full of events and celebrations for those so inclined, starting with the arrival of the Tall Ships. On Australia Day the huge display of Tall Ships, sailing boats and large navy vessels cheek-by-jowl in Sydney Harbour was thrilling and the day culminated in one of Sydney’s iconic  fireworks display.

A view of the Expo site from a hot air balloon, early 1987, or was it 1988?

A view of the Expo site from a hot air balloon, early 1987.

In Brisbane, the event of the year was World Expo 1988. Starting on 30th April, early autumn, it last an exciting, interesting, and fun six months. Brisbane turned on its best winter weather full of sunshine and clear blue skies and the westerly winds didn’t turn up too soon. I remember that we’d planned only to get a multiple-entry pass for financial reasons given we had school fees etc to take care of. Then someone (who??) talked me into the merits of a full season pass. It was a fantastic decision because it meant we could come and go as we pleased, for as long or as short a time as we liked.

Opening Day of Expo was a crush and a buzz of happiness.

Opening Day of Expo was a crush and a buzz of happiness.

Expo was held on the south bank of the Brisbane River, clearing a huge area, and most unfortunately displacing many of the poorer people who lived in the area. It had been the dry dock area and I recall that my great aunt lived there with her son, for a while after a stroke.

And here's the link ! A statue "reads" the newspaper at Expo.

And here’s the link ! A statue “reads” the newspaper at Expo.

The morning Expo 88 opened the crowds were packed densely at the gates, but full of anticipation. There was a surge of excitement when the gates opened, but It really didn’t matter when you went, there was always so much going on and so much to see. The Canadian and New Zealand pavilions rapidly became high-demand venues, so if you walked past and there was no queue you didn’t miss a chance. We loved the Nepalese pavilion, now preserved in the South Bank Parklands. Everywhere there were fun statues in poses which suited their location (many have been resited around Brisbane). Taking family photos near them became everyone’s hobby.

I had to include this one of Mr Cassmob's parents with the statues-great newspaper reader themselves and her hat echoes that of the woman's.

I had to include this one of Mr Cassmob’s parents with the statues-great newspaper reader themselves and her hat echoes that of the woman’s.

Mr Cassmob's aunt, moi, and DD2 and 3 outside the Oz pavilion.

Mr Cassmob’s aunt, moi, and DD2 and 3 outside the Oz pavilion.

There were concerts at the river which attracted huge crowds, and parades in the streets. Our older two then-teenaged daughters would sometimes go on their own to meet friends on a weekend after school or their part-time work. It was great because you knew they were safe.

There were street performers to entertain, footpath artists and a wondrous array of objects, even an original copy of the Magna Carta, to enjoy in the pavilions. Brisbane had never seen the like before. Even if our daughters had missed out on our travel gene (unlikely!), this certainly ensured that foreign lands captured their imaginations. Youngest daughter and I would often visit on the earlier evenings of the week while Mr Cassmob was studying, then he and I would have a date night later in the week.

The Nepalese pavilion had delicious sweets and samosas if I remember correctly.

The Nepalese pavilion had delicious sweets and samosas if I remember correctly.

There it is!

There it is!

Expo statues2Each of the countries represented had their own food stall and there was such variety to choose from. Unfortunately I didn’t get to enjoy this so much because it coincided with a fun period on a rigorous food elimination diet: potatoes and beans anyone?

One of the events at Expo was the Irish release of the Australian-Irish convict register on computer. On it I discovered information for my expat friend in the USA who was also researching Gavins but not my mob.

There really was something for everyone with so much entertainment and new experiences. It became a great place to catch up with friends and family and I was so pleased that we stretched the budget to a full pass for each of us. It was a great investment and we surely got our money’s worth.

We were there on opening day and it was such fun as our eyes popped with all the new sights and experiences. We were there on closing day and it was so sad: no surprise that youngest daughter had her face painted with tears. In the words of the Seekers’ song “The Carnival is Over”. Expo 88 had been a six month festival that had captured hearts and changed Brisbane forever.

There was much public debate as to how the site should be used and eventually it became a public parkland with a large pool. Adjoining the Brisbane Performing Arts and close to the Art Gallery, Museum and State Library it adds a different dimension to the city.

expo Panorama 1 low

Sepia Saturday 173: Vegetarians beware

Sepia Saturday 173I can’t believe I almost forgot last weekend’s Sepia Saturday when I had just the photos for it! Comes of dealing with technical problems I guess.

Borough markets1

A couple of years ago my husband and I were able to visit London and actually spent some time sightseeing rather than just doing family history. One of our “discoveries” was the joys of the Borough Markets. Now I’m sure this is old hat to my English readers but what a great time we had looking at all the produce, much of it so different from what we have here, and definitely fresher than a lot we get. The colours and the arrangements were just gorgeous and so photogenic. It was also incredibly cold that morning too, so we actually drank a mulled wine and followed up with a curry at some ridiculously early hour!.

At the Borough Markets

At the Borough Markets

Now I’m not vegetarian – I’m one of those food hypocrites who likes to pretend their meat just appears on Styrofoam trays in the supermarket. But even I couldn’t resist these images of freshly delivered critters. My foodie daughter has no such qualms -she’ll happily look at young lambs gambolling in the field and think how delicious they’ll taste.

Paddock to plate.

Paddock to plate.

I know rabbits can be a pest, and they certainly are here having been imported for hunting by nostalgic British settlers, but they are oh so cute, as well as delicious when cooked. I have a delicious homemade Italian rabbit ragu at a restaurant I like in Brisbane whenever it’s available, and I’m in town.

Bunnies

Ditto the ducks with their gorgeous heads still vibrantly coloured. Peking Duck anyone?

Ducks and pheasants

Not only did we have a fabulous time at the markets we were able to have an interlude visiting the adjacent Southwark Cathedral, St Saviour’s, where Mr Cassmob’s ancestors were married. One of the ushers looked appalled when I said it had a modern feel, I suppose quite rightly given its age, but what I liked about it was its simplicity of line.

St Saviours interior

I can feel a series of photos coming up about our travels on my Tropical Territory blog once I get through the April A to Z challenge.

Borough markets2

A tribute to Sir Springer the cat

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Get a pet, lose your heart”…perhaps that might replace the “a pet is not just for Christmas” slogan. We happily accept the exchange where we look after our pets’ needs and in return are given un-judgmental acceptance and affection. Cats are of course a different matter –if you’ve ever loved a cat you’ll know that there’s a fair bit of truth in the statement that cats have staff. Cat lovers wouldn’t have it any other way.

Helping Mum with Congress 2006 work.

Helping Mum with Congress 2006 work.

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All this work is just too tiring.

It wasn’t always an amiable relationship on his part, as Springer thought he belonged in the house and should take priority over mere small humans. It wasn’t uncommon to find him stubbornly sitting in the midst of the toys plainly making his residential status clear.

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They only think it’s their play tent…it’s mine as well.

As the other grandchildren have come along he’s often looked askance at them and retreated to a safe position away from them. On one or two occasions he’s given them a nip of warning to their dismay but despite that they too have been enamoured of him and have learned to watch his tail for impatient swishing. When they turn up on an unexpected day, and he seemed to have a good sense of when it was grandchild-day, he was known to give a very disapproving look at their temerity for disturbing his peace. At the end of each visit he would follow us all out to the gate, then roll on the driveway looking smug with a distinct attitude of “na, na, na..I live here, you don’t!”

Sometimes you just have to chill out!

Sometimes you just have to chill out!

As you can see, a cat of definite opinions! He’s never been a cuddle cat, tolerating only small doses of cuddles, but he always loved to be near us wherever we were. He was oh, so predictable in his habits: when breakfast was due (as soon as someone woke up), when it was time for an afternoon snack (between 4 and 5); when it was time to reluctantly come in at night (about 10pm) and when to annoy Mr Cassmob to let him out (the earlier the better from his point of view). When he wanted to come back in he would yodel loudly to get my attention and then need to be dried off if he’d been caught in a storm.

This is what we called his "mad eyes" look when he was fired up for mischief, including his tendency to kick himself in the ear...silly boy!

This is what we called his “mad eyes” look when he was fired up for mischief, including his tendency to kick himself in the ear…silly boy!

In short, his staff were perfectly trained, and in return he mostly did what we wanted. He accepted that when we went on long holidays he would have an excursion to his fancy cat resort complete with an enclosed aerial walkway where he could sun himself, a hammock to snooze on and his mummy rug brought from home. On the way there and back he would talk loudly and put his paw through his travelling cage, to be reassured. He knew full well the difference between the route to the resort and that to the vet, which generated a much louder conversation.

I wonder where they'll go on holidays next?

I wonder where they’ll go on holidays next? Among Mum’s family history papers in the study.

Within our complex he seemed to be popular especially with those who love animals but can’t have one for various reasons. He would trot around, fluffy Persian-like tail held high, looking like lord of all he surveyed. This earned him our aka of Mr Trotsky. His daily name, Springer, came from his youthful mischievous habit of leaping out and kung-fu-ing you at hip height as you walked by.

The most recent photo of him we have - in Pavlovian mode.

The most recent photo of him we have – in Pavlovian mode. Where are the mussels Dad?

Pavlov would have been impressed with him when he flew down the stairs at the smell of Thai food preparations, because after all, those activities and smells went with Thai Mussel fritters, and he liked nothing better. In fact on a recent occasion, when Thai was being prepared but not mussel fritters, we offered him freshly cooked prawns. From his response you’d have thought we offered him cat food, and the cheapest version at that! Our previous cats looooved prawns and for them we made a dish of prawns their last supper.

What are THEY doing here again? On an unexpected grandchildren visit.

What are THEY doing here again? On an unexpected grandchildren visit.

Ever neurotic, he was utterly terrified of strangers and was a better stranger-early-warning system than a watch dog. If you saw him fly up the stairs, belly to the ground, tail down, you could guarantee there was someone walking through the complex, and far too close to our unit. We ultimately concluded that he had perhaps come from a cat farm (something we hadn’t known about previously), as we could never quite get him past his fear of anyone other than family.

Now which one should come off next?

Now which one should come off next?

It was only last Christmas that his increasing maturity became evident and he resisted the temptation to climb the Xmas tree, and carefully (or madly!) remove the baubles as he’d done every other year. From time to time he’d indulge in fits of craziness flying up the stairs like a bat out of hell, doing wheelies with his legs spinning out from under him. Hilarious to watch.

Nearly two weeks ago Mr Springer disappeared from home and hasn’t been seen since. We’ve tried everything under the sun to find him but reluctantly we’re very slowly accepting we’re likely not to see him again.

We can’t (won’t?) accept that someone might have catnapped him for nefarious purposes because he was just too speedy to be caught. He doesn’t appear to have been hit by a car as no body has been found. We hope that if he has gone to cat heaven that it wasn’t too terrifying a trip for our little nervous Nellie, and think that being bitten by a snake or poisoned by cane toad, rather than attacked by the dingoes or wild dogs that are in the reserve across the road, are the likeliest possibilities.

Chilling out on his chair and his mummy rug (sarong)

Chilling out on his chair and his mummy rug (sarong)

They say it takes two weeks to create or break a habit, in which case we may soon stop looking for him everywhere and come to terms with his empty Ikea chair without his furry little face looking at us. We’ve found it surprisingly difficult to come to terms with his absence –there’s something much “cleaner” about eventually having to have a very ill cat put to sleep, than the everlasting wondering about what happened.

Through it all we’ve been so grateful for the kindness of friends, family and strangers who’ve responded to our distress. The take-home message from this experience is very much about the goodness and kindness of most people, and how much most people love their pets. We’ve also been so impressed by the people at the Top End Lost and Found who coordinate information on lost and found pets.

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