Sepia Saturday (or Tuesday): Kathmandu tales

Sepia Saturday 250Funny how things turn out isn’t it? All along my plan was to write my Sepia Saturday post on Kathmandu…after all my photos fitted the theme perfectly. Then I went off the idea, and life got in the way as I worked on photo books of our last holiday.

Vegetable and fruit sellars in a Kathmandu street.

Vegetable and fruit sellars in a Kathmandu street.

The universe had other plans though, because in my virtual mail box today was an unexpected Random Act of Kindness. Robert had retouched my old, faded Kathmandu photos so they were now punchy with colour just as they were back in the day. To say I was surprised and delighted was an understatement! So of course now I have to use them even if it is now Sepia Tuesday, but then they’re not really sepia anymore either. If you want to see what an amazing difference Robert’s skills have wrought, have a look at an old post I did on my Tropical Territory blog.

Although my children know the story of our trip to Kathmandu this seems an opportunity to preserve it for posterity.

We were living in Port Moresby in the 1970s when my colleague/boss moved to Kathmandu where her husband had gained a posting in charge of the electrical division of Kathmandu airport. Both Mr Cassmob and I had always had a virtual interest in India, Nepal and Mt Everest so it was very tempting when we were genuinely invited to come for a visit. Despite the temptation, I was adamant we couldn’t go because the children were only six and four and, I thought, vulnerable to all the potential illnesses.

One of the scenes when you wish you knew what was happening.

One of the scenes when you wish you knew what was happening.

In Papua New Guinea, as part of our employment conditions we got return airfares every two years to Australia (in our case Melbourne where my husband came from). Since it cost almost as much to spend months in Australia as it did to travel overseas, you might well guess which option we took.

So it was that in late 1976/early 1977 we were planning our next leave with a trip to Europe and the UK. Of course there was no internet, and no option for online bookings, so off to the travel agent in town we toddled.

Part way through the process DD2 took off up the street for a walkabout, with Mum in hot pursuit. We returned to hear “that’s …..Heathrow to Delhi, Delhi to Kathmandu, Kathmandu-Bangkok, Bangkok-Singapore, Singapore-Moresby”. Say what? Did she say Kathmandu? Indeed she did… the wily one had taken the chance of my disappearance to sneak in the diversion via Kathmandu!

One of our favourite photos of Kathmandu - what were they looking at?

One of our favourite photos of Kathmandu – what were they looking at?

And so we found ourselves landing in Kathmandu amidst a cracking electrical storm surrounded by mountains and being rather grateful for our friend’s role in ensuring the airport’s electrics were up to par.

We had a great time staying with them, being guided round the streets and byways of Kathmandu. So much to see and even by comparison with Papua New Guinea, so much poverty and illnesses like leprosy. It’s a bit daunting seeing people missing body parts like noses, fingers etc but the kids mostly took it all in their stride. They even coped with the cows’ “right of way” in all matters…well most of the time. They were even unfazed by witnessing a cremation ceremony on the banks of the river….I was ambivalent but my friend reckoned they’d be okay and they were. The Nepali people were so friendly and less importuning than we’d experienced in Delhi as well, so that helped our appreciation of the place too.

Tinsmiths or silversmiths working their craft.

Tinsmiths or silversmiths working their craft.

One day we were lucky enough to go for a drive with our friend up into the mountains while he completed some work. We drove through villages where the road was covered in grain and the passing vehicles threshed it as they drove over. We drove on steep roads with fierce drops on the edge of the road – much scarier than parts of the Highlands Highway in PNG. I remember being asked how close to the edge we were – not the best question for a person with a fear of heights, and especially edges. Sadly, when we went to take the film out of the camera that day we’d had a blooper – no film! Most distressing I can tell you.

We even managed an excursion flight out to Mount Everest which was a super thrill for all of us, and the kids still have their certificates from the flight. We were also lucky we were staying with our friends because it meant the water was triple filtered and the fruit and vegetables always cleaned in Condy’s-crystalled-water. Almost needless to say the kids didn’t get sick…that privilege was left for their mother. As we took that Kathmandu-Bangkok leg I was violently ill …hardly surprising I’ve avoided Bangkok airport ever since.

Sari making must be a time-consuming task, requiring lots of patience.

Sari making must be a time-consuming task, requiring lots of patience.

We duly arrived in Singapore and were met by family members of one of Mr Cassmob’s work colleagues. They really couldn’t do enough for us, guiding us around town and taking us out for special meals at places we’d never have found…though they were surprised we managed to get to Sentosa Island on our own <smile>.  And then, just as the piggy bank was nearing the bottom of its resources, along came the Australian baggage handler’s strike and the cessation of flights…but that’s a story for another day, along with the theft in Amsterdam of Mr Cassmob’s passport with all its visas, and his share of the money.

Thanks Robert for this wonderful and surprising Act of Kindness!

Why not pop over and see how other Sepians interpreted this week’s image?

Shall we have goat for dinner?

Shall we have goat for dinner?

 

Tents, glorious tents

Flooded GuidesGiven the propensity for front page news to be all about disasters, you might be surprised that this is my mental starting point for today’s Sepia Saturday theme. You see it was the one and only time I’ve made the front page, and in my first term of high school no less. One way to get noticed I suppose.

I’d been in Girl Guides since 1960 and passed my camping test for the first class badge on 6 June 1961…coincidentally Queensland Day. We were transported to these camping adventures by an old three-ton truck, probably an old army vehicle. Guides plus camping requirements were piled in the back tray and off we went. Can you imagine that being allowed today?

I remember going to a farmer’s property on the far edges of Brisbane where we erected those big cumbersome tents typical of the era. Digging latrines and putting up hessian-screened bathing areas was also part of the fun. Bath time involved those big round metal tubs and the toilets were dirt ditches. Each day we’d get fresh milk from the farmer, or more accurately, his cows. No nonsense about pasteurisation either. Meals were cooked in large army dixies. We’d swim in the very chilly creek and hope not to encounter any eels, water snakes etc. At night we’d have a huge campfire and sing songs. The first time I went camping with Guides my parents came out for a day visit. How that happened I’m not sure – they certainly weren’t the only ones and as they didn’t have a car, they’d have had to come with someone else. I remember I was a little homesick but so were they because for the first time the nest was empty.Guides flooded Samford

Then a few years later, over the May school holidays, we went to a different site. This one was on a rise, with a dry creek-bed on one side and a small creek on the other. Overnight it rained, and rained, and we woke up to a raging creek all around us and no hope of getting off our new island. As an adult I can only imagine the anxiety and decisions the leaders had to make. You can read the whole exciting story in the linked post I wrote a while ago. Suffice to say, thanks to the Water Police, and a courageous Guide, we made it home safely and found ourselves on the front page of the local newspaper the next day.

There was no opportunity for holiday camping in Papua New Guinea, at least as far as I know, so it wasn’t until the early 80s that we introduced our own trio of little campers to holidays under canvas. This time we had been invited to join our neighbours on a camping trip to Hastings Point in northern New South Wales. Over the years our family had many great adventures there, and you can read a little about them by clicking here.

Camping in splendid isolation with a view of the sea...that's our tent.

Camping in splendid isolation with a view of the sea…that’s our tent.

The photo above (on a grey day) is of our favourite spot overlooking the creek where it joins the surf and the Pacific Ocean. It was always an anxious moment until we crossed the bridge and checked no one had usurped “our” tent site! The next chore was to check out the changes in the creek’s path and whether the pelicans were “in town” or not. In our energetic moments we’d explore the marine park among the rocks, go swimming (convincing the girls not to swim to New Zealand), or have a game of cricket , or just loll around reading a book. The wind could be pretty fierce there and by the time this tent was retired there was nary a straight pole among the collection.
The caption on this says "our firs camping weekend, Lamington NP, Anzac weekend 1985". Both tents are ours.

The caption on this says “our first (solo) camping weekend, Lamington NP, Anzac weekend 1985″. Both tents are ours.

One of our other favourite sites was at Lamington National Park where we’d see the bower birds, noisy pitta birds, rosellas and possums. It could get quite cold up there so we had some fun times rugged to our eyebrows, toasting marshmallows and playing maj jong or card games. During the day we’d go for walks in the magnificent rainforest, and perhaps feed more birds.camping Mt Lamington

And then there was the year I decided on the spur of the moment one school holidays to take DD3 and her cousin to the snow, a mere 1500kms or so away, as I’d heard there’d been great snowfalls. By the time we arrived at a motel after dark that night I was seriously doubting my sanity, especially as the motel seemed to have a high turnover of short term stays and a lot of cars coming and going! Once we reached Kosciuszko National Park, we camped below the snowline but believe me it was pretty cold just the same. The wildlife had grown accustomed to the campers so were on the lookout for snacks, like these two fellows. An improvement on our Bicentennial camping trip when the birds had eaten all our stone-fruit which we’d foolishly left on the table under the tent’s awning. When we returned the chairs were covered in the way you might expect when a critter has eaten a surfeit of stone fruit.

But it's cold and we need a snack!

But it’s cold and we need a snack!

Although it didn’t make the front page news, I regard my Big Trip of 1994 as my most memorable. Exhausted and burnt out from a high-intensity, very political job at a research centre it was time to take myself to the wilderness for a while (have I mentioned what a supportive husband I have?). So me, my tent and all my clutter took off in the car for points south of Queensland.

That raised bonnet suggests trouble was already afoot.

That raised bonnet suggests trouble was already afoot. Mt Kaputar National Park.

My first stop was Mt Kaputar where I arrived late in the afternoon. I got set up and made sure my brick-sized mobile phone was charged and checked in with himself. In the process I turned the car engine – and again – and again…to no avail. In the morning I got someone to jump start the car and made my way determinedly down the range to the nearest town, where I foolishly turned the engine off again. One day into my trip I had acquired a faulty alternator so I spent my second day cooling my heels in a country town waiting for it to be replaced.

Once again Hastings Pt 1989, but could be any/many of our campsites.

Once again Hastings Pt 1989, but could be any/many of our campsites.

Mercifully after that the trip went smoothly and I dawdled my way to Adelaide (I guess about 3000kms away) a couple of weeks later. While I often found myself camped with only a few other tents around, I also wasn’t being foolish. At one national park I got such a negative vibe that I just turned turkey and found a motel.

Mr Cassmob met me in Adelaide and we picked up DD2 and DD3 from the airport in Alice Springs, late as it happens, but that’s another story. This was our first excursion into the Northern Territory and little did we know then how big a part it would come to play in all our lives over the coming decades. By the time we pulled back into our driveway in Brisbane we’d notched up about 14,000kms and spent more than half the time under canvas.

At the time of the Bicentenary in 1988, submissions were sought from people around the country showing their favourite places and activities. We submitted this one of DD2 washing her sister’s hair, camping style.

Two of the Cass girls, Hastings Point. Page 272, My Australia, Robertsbridge Group Pty Ltd, Sydney, 1989.

Two of the Cass girls, Hastings Point. Page 272, My Australia, Robertsbridge Group Pty Ltd, Sydney, 1989.

As you can see, camping has been a large part of our family story over several decades. We don’t get to do it as much lately  – sleeping on the ground has worn off a little, but there is something very special about being out in the bush with a blur of the Milky Way over your head. The family cycle has turned and now our children and grandchildren love to escape the big smoke and head out to enjoy the nights away as a clan with glo-sticks, sparklers, marshmellows and a roaring fire. It is certainly creating some great cousin memories which will stay with them through their lives.

A souvenir photo, taken by one of the kids, when my parents came camping.

A souvenir photo, taken by one of the kids, when my parents came camping.

And as a finale, here’s a photo of an old-style tent taken at the Colonial Queensland exhibition in Brisbane in 1986. It was at this event that I enquired about family history research and signed up with the Genealogical Society of Queensland, thereby starting me down a path which has kept me engaged and happy for nearly thirty years.Colonial Day 1986

Now you’ve reached the end of this saga, why not head over to see what the other Sepians have had to say about camping or trios. It looks like it’s been a popular topic.

Did you go camping as a child? As an adult? Did you love it or loathe it?

Sepia Saturday 242: A costume fan

Sepia Saturday Aug 14Last Saturday’s Sepia Saturday 242 theme was fans, costumes etc in which host and coordinator Alan amused with his comments:I have never been a fan of fans. Whether they are slats of painted paper or those large metallic jobs that whirr around and threaten to lift your hairpiece into space, I would never volunteer to act as secretary of their fan club. 

Some of the fans I've inherited or been given.

Some of the fans I’ve inherited or been given.

Unlike Alan I live in the tropics where overhead fans are a necessary feature of our homes and any sudden absence of power makes you notice they’ve come to a silent standstill. When the humidity builds any hand-held fan works to combat the heat…beautiful hand-held ones or just a piece of paper. So I’m a fan of fans indeed.

I’m also a fan of national costumes having grown up in Brisbane with the influx of post-war migration. The annual Corpus Christi procession would see Catholics from various nations from Poland to Yugoslavia wearing their national dress proudly. Being a serious religious event I have no photos from those days.

70,000 Attend Corpus Christi. (1951, May 28). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved August 27, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50103012

70,000 Attend Corpus Christi. (1951, May 28). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved August 27, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50103012

Zurich032 copyHowever, today I want to share with you an unexpected event we encountered on our first youthful trip to Europe. We had arrived in Zurich as a natural progression in our “grand tour” and by pure chance, came across their end of winter parade in which the various guilds wore traditional dress. It was an amazing experience seeing these centuries-old traditions still in play. It was equally amazing to hear some young women backpackers, backs to the parade, bemoaning the boredom of Zurich!

Zurich020 editedAs people marched through the streets, family or friends would dash over to present them with bunches of flowers. An Aussie male in those days wouldn’t be seen dead carrying flowers but these men carried their floral gifts with aplomb.

Let me share this procession with you as a slide show – after all that’s the traditional way of sharing photos from a holiday.

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After the parade everyone made their way to a nearby park where an artificial snowman was ceremoniously burned to symbolise the end of winter. I still have the little snowman pin which I got there ….or was I given it? Mr Cassmob made friends somehow with three men from one of the guilds (blacksmiths, perhaps?) who shared their drink with him.Zurich 00snowman edit_edited-1

My poor tattered snowman.

My poor tattered snowman.

Altogether it is such a great memory of our early life together and the grand adventure of our first, but not as anticipated our last, trip to Europe. The internet tells me this festival still exists and is called the Sechseläuten festival and and the snowman is called the Böögg. It is normally held on the third Sunday and Monday in April, so if you’re planning to be in Switzerland in April sometime why not add it to your to-see list.

Why not pop over to the Sepia Saturday site to see whether others are fans of fans or costumes.

 

 

A winter excursion to the Top End?

I’ve been having a frivolous conversation on Facebook with my friend Sharn from Family History 4 U and Family Convictions and her overseas mates. The topic has been about Australian vernacular expressions and how they can be so easily misunderstood by non-Aussies. It finally occurred to me that I’d done a series of Aussie-isms in my April A to Z challenge in 2013 along with a virtual tour of Australia’s tropical north.

So if you’re in the mood to escape some chilly weather (the rest of Oz) or a summer chill out (northern hemisphere), why not go for a virtual excursion to the Top End where it’s presently a cool 22C (72F), and learn a little about our weird way of talking.

Yellow Waters in Kakadu National Park, NT.

Yellow Waters in Kakadu National Park, NT.

My Tropical Territory and Travel blog has been terribly neglected lately but I’m hoping to get some posts up soon about our recent adventures overseas.

And I’ve just discovered something else -you go to bed and overnight WordPress drastically changes the design for posting new stories! Uuuugh!

Have you noticed, too, that you can hit the like button under someone’s comment if you thought it was interesting, humorous etc?

A desperate family tableau

I’m a self-confessed travel addict but no matter how much one enjoys the experience of visiting new places (or revisiting “old” ones), travel does come with its ups and downs…in the case of the Paris metro, there’s lots of ups and downs in the ubiquitous stairs, especially when carrying luggage.

However some experiences reach deep into our hearts and minds.

As we walked up the hill from our wonderful hotel in Istanbul, we were confronted by a 2014 “holy family” tableau which has seared itself into my mind. “Syria, Syria, food, food” he said, waving a pre-printed sign in a plastic sleeve. His face was gaunt and his eyes desperate. Beside him his wife sat with a blank gaze, traumatised by lack of food or the things she’s seen in their country’s conflict. Their daughter, a toddler, sat docilely on her mother’s lap. Everything about them spoke of hunger, trauma and desperation.

Inured to rounds of importuning beggars we initially walked past them but this little family group was different. Their hopelessness spoke volumes and the next thing I was sobbing in tears. We turned back, giving them a donation with the universal sign of food and eating.

On our return a few hours later, they were in the same place, but now the toddler sat on the footpath, looking more animated and nibbling on a simit, a kind of Turkish roll available from mobile stalls for about 1 Turkish lira or 50 cents. Once again we turned back and gave them another donation.

We’re great believers in Kiva and have been part of Genealogists for Families since it was set up by Judy Webster. It makes a difference to those who’ve made steps towards independence and helps them protect the most valuable thing in all our lives – our families.

But how does a family like this one of Syrian refugees ever get to that stage of semi-independence? They are probably among those sleeping rough under the bushes and trees near the waterfront. Most likely they were in the only clothes they owned. You can’t fake the desperation in their eyes and faces…I have no doubt in my mind their circumstances were drastic. How will they ever break loose from this cycle of homelessness and despair? Even a basic job like collecting recyclables from the rubbish bins requires a large bag and trolley in which to carry them. And there we were, having spent what to them was a life’s fortune on a five week trip, buying gifts for our own family and complaining about the amount of luggage we had.

That tableau will remain in my memory for a very long time to come: the impact of war and conflict on the ordinary person.

This post is dedicated to my blogging friend Catherine Crout-Habel from the Seeing Susan ~ Meeting Marie ~ Finding Family blog. Catherine passed on to the land of her ancestors around the time we returned home. I’d never met her in person but felt I knew her from her intelligent and humorous posts. She was a woman who cared deeply for the underprivileged and I’m confident this experience of ours would have resonated with her.

Travel signs and portents

Have you missed me? I’ve been gone so long even I feel like I’ve been AWOL. Later on I’ll share with you my experiences on the Western Front in France and also at Gallipoli in Turkey.

Fun as it was, the Unlock the Past Cruise in February was the start of my blogging slippery slope. After that I got caught up in commitments with family and at home in Darwin and interstate. Inspired by my cruising experience we decided to take our first step into the non-conference cruising world with a voyage between Athens and Istanbul in June. Between all my travel agent duties, and doing the same for my Mum, time just galloped away from me.

Then we also gained a new twig on the family tree not long before we went away, and so the months of 2014 have slipped through my fingers, at least in blogging terms.

Family history at the moment is focused on trying to unravel the findings from DNA results for me, my mum and indirectly a cousin, my post on that will come later when my brain slowly makes sense of it…at least in part.

Meanwhile inspired by this week’s topic on Sepia Saturday I thought I’d offer you some signs from our recent gallivanting in Europe.

We absolutely loved Istanbul with its vibrant mix of East meets West, Islam meets Christianity and the buzz of the city. It was out first visit there and it’s now a firm favourite, whether we make it back there or not. As confirmed cat-lovers how could we not like a city where the stray cats are fed and looked after by the local shop-owners.

A sign on the rooftop terrace of our wonderful hotel.

A sign on the rooftop terrace of our wonderful Istanbul hotel.

Feeling stressed? Try some dessert!

Feeling stressed? Try some dessert!

No dessert needed here...this kitten is super-chilled out...well resting comfortably in the morning sunshine.

No dessert needed here…this kitten is super-chilled out…resting comfortably in the morning sunshine.

Taksim Square shopping festival  -we've got our eyes on you!

Taksim Square shopping festival -we’ve got our eyes on you!

 

Says it all really.

Says it all really.

And now to Prague where graffiti/cartoon sketches seem to be de rigeur. I asked our guide why, and he seemed surprised by the question. I wondered if it was a response by the people during the Communist era.

I don't really "get" the whole John Lennon thing, but this wall is a major tourist site.

I don’t really “get” the whole John Lennon thing, but this wall is a major tourist site.

On the wall of a hotel, with similar cartoons on the windows.

On the wall of a hotel, with similar cartoons on the windows.

On a far more serious note, around the city you will see signs which commemorate Czech people who gave their lives for their nation’s freedom.

DSC_0373 murder

Working in reverse to our trip here are some Parisian signs.

Seen in Montmatre, I know a few Territory males who think three vodkas is only the start of a serious night's drinking.

Seen in Montmatre, I know a few Territory males who think three vodkas is only the start of a serious night’s drinking.

Seen on the way to a lovely restaurant, this sign caught my eye. A number of my early Queensland ancestors settled near the Condamine River.

Seen on the way to a lovely restaurant, this sign caught my eye. A number of my early Queensland ancestors settled near the Condamine River.

What does it mean? Not sure I understand it...

What does it mean? Not sure I understand it…

I hope you’ve enjoyed this virtual journey through some of the travel signs that caught my eye.

 

Book of Me: Week 34 Easter Memories

Book of meIt’s ages since I did a Book of Me post but then I found Julie’s topic for this week is Easter memories…just when I’d been reflecting on that very topic last night and how I’m completely underwhelmed by the Easter palaver these days.

This was Julie’s key question: What does Easter Mean to you?

A religious event?
The first main break (in the UK) since Christmas and New Year
A more general Spring/Autumn event
Easter Bunnies
Eggs
Chocolate
Traditions

Growing up very Catholic (no that’s not a redundant combination), Easter for me was all about the religious reason for the season. Even more it was all about going to church again, and again, and again. Even as a very good child I found this all a bit overwhelming. There was the Holy Thursday celebration with washing of the feet (something which has generated controversy for Pope Francis), and after Mass, the adoration of the Eucharist.

Friday was of course the commemoration of the saviour’s suffering on the cross with stations of the cross then in later years, a procession around the church. Throughout all this, all the church fittings were draped in purple and the tabernacle door left open to symbolise God was no longer present.

Good Friday was/is a day of fasting and abstinence from meat. What fun…South African yellow cod…one of my favourite delicacies…not!

Saturday involved confession and then the Easter Vigil Mass at midnight. This was a high Mass with white vestments and much grandeur and celebration. The Paschal candle was lit and this would be used throughout the year during church celebrations and baptisms.

Living in a sub-tropical city the change of seasons was immaterial. It was only when Easter was late that there might have been a nip in the night air as autumn approached.

A gift from Aunty Emily.

A gift from Aunty Emily.

What was more exciting was that Lent had come to an end…alleluia! No longer were chocolates on the banned list but we could pig out on Easter Sunday and indulge in all those lollies that had been hoarded in bottles throughout Lent (I don’t claim this was logical!). Mum told me recently that her Protestant aunt (a grandmother substitute for me as mine had died), used to give me little tea cups during Lent rather than buy lollies. I also had Easter egg cups from her which I passed on to my grandchildren a couple of years ago.

easter cups 2I don’t recall anything like the fuss and kerfuffle that exists today with Easter egg hunts etc etc. What I do remember are those candy Easter eggs with frilly icing around the edge and an icing flower in the middle, something like this modern-day version. They were so hard it’s a wonder we didn’t break our teeth on them. We lived in Papua New Guinea when our two older children were young and the chocolate eggs which arrived were invariably stale so we got into the habit of buying the kids something special in Swiss chocolate like a foil-wrapped chocolate orange. My grandchildren are happy to indulge in Swiss chocolates at any time of year.

A very rare occasion - the winning of an Easter basket at work.

A very rare occasion – the winning of an Easter basket at work.

In Australia, it’s quite traditional to go camping during the Easter long weekend. As we didn’t have a car and Dad had to work shifts, we didn’t do this when I was growing up. Nor was it a tradition when our children were smaller – after all how to reconcile all the tie demands of church-going with camping. Besides which the weather is invariably unpredictable except in the likelihood of rain. Hence why it bucketed down here yesterday <smile>.

The little tea cups my Aunty Emily gave me.

The little tea cups my Aunty Emily gave me.

There was the year we took ourselves off to Cairns for Easter leaving the teen and adult daughter behind. While we were sunning ourselves and lazing in the pool, Brisbane had a cracker storm and one of our big eucalypts quietly subsided onto the roof without any damage other than bent guttering. We weren’t entirely popular!

Mr Cassmob remembers our first Easter together when we drove out along Milne Bay to the mission at Ladava for Easter Saturday Mass and saw the moon rise over the bay. I have no reason to doubt him but I have no recollection of it…I think I was still in shell-shock from relocating from “civilisation”.

Over the years we’ve been fortunate to travel quite a bit and because we like to do that off season we have some special Easter travel memories.

The Florence festival, Easter 1974.

The Florence festival, Scoppio del Carro, Easter 1974.

On our first trip to Europe we were in Florence for Easter and were delightedly surprised by the traditional celebration that occurs there, Scoppio del Carro. Rather than try to explain this complex process and its symbolism why not read this article? The owner of the pension arranged for her husband to stay up to let us in after midnight Mass which was kind of her. There were two interesting events in the midst of the service, at least to us. Firstly people just wandered around through the Duomo (cathedral) during the Mass, and secondly when it came time for the Bishop to pour out water from the pitcher, it was completely empty – much flurrying as an acolyte had to rush off and fill it up.

One of my all time family favourites. DD1 and DD2 in Interlaken, Easter Sunday 1977.

One of my all time family favourites. DD1 and DD2 in Interlaken, Easter Sunday 1977.

On our second trip to Europe with darling daughters 1 and 2, we were in Lucerne for Easter. What better place to be for a chocolate treat or two, yet there’s not a single photo of our indulgences. It was also spectacular because overnight on the Thursday or Friday, there was a huge snowfall which got even heavier later on. The girls got to make their first snowmen and have a mini-snowfight. On Easter Sunday we headed off by train on the next stage of our journey. I particularly love a photo I have of the two munchkins in Interlaken taken while we waited for the next train. And yes, despite warnings, they did of course go off into the snow and get their shoes wet even though we had an overnight train trip ahead of us.

A plethora of clerics.

A plethora of clerics.

It wasn’t for many years that we had another opportunity to be in Europe at Easter time. We met up with DD3 and partner and gadded around, taking our chances with Italian traffic. One day we visited the lovely village of Montepulciano where we saw the delicious Easter treats in the window of Caffe Poliziano. By Easter Sunday we were a deux once again and staying in a lovely hotel where the “room was tiny but the view was marvelleuse”.

Easter Mass was celebrated in grand style with a cluster of clergy and a huge crowd of people. Afterwards we had booked Easter lunch – about five courses, all huge. It remains in my memory as the biggest meal we’ve ever eaten – and trying to cut corners was definitely not permitted. We were so piggish that by the end we could barely walk without groaning and couldn’t even indulge in a little post-prandial gelato.

Easter Mass in Assisi 2000 with a massive outdoor congregation and al fresco Mass.

Easter Mass in Assisi 2000 with a massive outdoor congregation and al fresco Mass.

These days our Easter celebrations are so low-key they’re virtually invisible. In fact this year we haven’t even indulged in any more than a Tim-Tam or two. No Easter eggs were bought as the smallest people had reached their quota of sugar-hit and as family were off on a bush adventure we had a quiet day catching up on blogs etc. I think I missed the Easter celebration gene.

The Italians do Easter treats more glamorously than anyone. Mr Cassmob looking happy despite the rain outside a Florentine Bonbonierie.

The Italians do Easter treats more glamorously than anyone. Mr Cassmob looking happy despite the rain outside a Florentine Bonboniere.

Diary of a Genea-cruise: Day 9 – the finale

314 pyramidWednesday was Day 9 and the final day of our cruise as we headed for Sydney with another warning from the Captain that there would be “motion on the ocean” but that he had no control over it, being subject to a “higher power even than my wife’s”.

The UTP cruisers had a full schedule of activities for the day ahead with some earlier talks rescheduled due to illness. It was difficult to buckle down to being alert and “on plan” after the time in port at Hobart and I confess I made this one of my “time out” days, missing a few sessions. Inevitably there were clashes in the programming so I still missed some I’d liked to have heard.

RESEARCHING A HEALTH HISTORY

Helen Smith kicked off the morning with excellent advice to prepare a family tree (genogram) without names but with gender, cause of death and age at death. Even reflecting quickly on the topic as Helen spoke I could see some scary family health risks, though to be fair, none that were a huge surprise….my family is largely blessed with longevity.813 dreamworks exp

She asked “what risk factors do you have?” and encouraged us to take preventive health measures to ensure we live long enough to do our family history. Also to talk with family members about health conditions such as miscarriages, mental health issues or cancers, but being aware of people’s sensitivities around the topic.

Key messages:  Approach your family tree using health data, rather than names and see what health conditions are prevalent. Talk to family members to tease out illnesses other than the specific cause of death.

IRISH LAND RECORDS

Chris Paton was as always amusing and informative.

I was excited to learn that the Irish National Archives will “soon” be adding to their site, the extant field, house and tenure books which lie behind the Griffith Valuations. I’ve used these in Dublin before for the townland of Ballykelly but not for some of my other places and I need to revisit the images I have to make more sense of them. The website to watch is http://genealogy.nationalarchives.ie/

I didn't get to spend a minute in the sun loungers...

I didn’t get to spend a minute in the sun loungers…

402 pool deck

Or on the pool deck….but I did make it to the day spa.

Chris also mentioned the Revision books (aka Cancellation Books) which update the original Griffith Valuations. These are absolutely gold in terms of tracing who took over your family’s property over the decades and can provide clues to when someone died. They are available through the LDS Family History Centres by ordering in the microfilm, but they’re very difficult to follow because they’re only in black and white whereas the originals are in colour so you can follow the entry across the page. The Valuation Office in Dublin will send a copy to you for E40 if you know where you’re looking. It may be expensive but it’s cheaper than a trip to Ireland, though nowhere near as much fun!

Other land records are available at different sites eg the Defaulters’ Books (for those who refused to pay the Tithes) is on FindMyPast as are the Landed Estate Court Records.

The National University of Ireland in Galway has a database on the landed estates of Munster and Connacht…the provinces where so many Irish in Australia came from. This database will let you search for the owners of estates and whether there might be surviving estate records (but do look elsewhere as well). Those with Clare ancestry can use the wonderful Clare Library site to learn more about their ancestor’s parish and the estates before turning to this database.

PRONI (the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland) also has great information for those with northern Irish ancestry, including a national schools index.

Key messages: All of the above. If you haven’t used any of these resources then check them out.

My advice: Land records are a key gateway into Irish genealogy though you do need to know where your ancestor came from (well anyone will tell you that!). If you’re struggling to locate their townland or village check out obituaries, funeral notices and funeral directors, newspaper stories, the name they called their house/property, gravestones, family stories, immigration records and so on. Be lateral, sometimes that’s the only way you’ll find them.

822 DreamworksFAMILY HISTORIAN: Queries and Plug-ins (Jane Taubman)

I didn’t attend all the Family Historian sessions offered by Jane, largely because of clashes with other sessions. I have the program on my computer and have imported some data but have yet to really play with it. The program I have used for years is an Australian one, Relatively Yours, which offers great flexibility but doesn’t export to other programs as consistently as I’d like.

Key message (for me): Get my act together, experiment with Family Historian and decide if it suits my purposes.

DNA FOR GENEALOGISTS

Kerry Farmer provides really clear advice in her presentations and the DNA session was no different. In theory I understand the process and significance but ….every time I turn my mind to this task I wonder how it can still befuddle me despite five years of science training, albeit a long time ago. One of my stumbling blocks is that I don’t have any other (known) relatives who have tested and all the 3rd or 4th cousins who pop up only identify relations within the USA. Kerry suggests asking them if they know of anywhere overseas their families came from. Perhaps it’s time to follow Kerry’s lead and offer to pay for tests for key people in my family puzzles.

Key message (for me): try, try again to understand my DNA results, read blog posts, download the data and try to make more sense of it. Kerry’s tips: get other family members tested, join the haplogroup that fits your profile (and perhaps a surname group, if applicable), and follow Family Tree DNA on Facebook to get early warning of special deals. There are also some good webinars online. Plainly there’s lots of homework to be done, and some concentrated thinking instead of head-in-a-bucket methods.

LOST IN ASYLUMS

Shauna Hicks gave a great talk on benevolent asylums and similar that housed consumptive patients or the infirm. The key places to find information about these is the relevant archive and they can be rich sources of information which can solve many mysteries or add more information not available elsewhere –I’ve certainly had great success with them. Many of the archives have at least some of these records indexed so do have a look at them. My notes on Shauna’s talk include a lot of reminders of action to follow up.

Key messages: Don’t forget to use an advanced google search combined with the relevant URL eg www.archives.qld.gov.au.

CRUISE FINALE

It was a shame to know the cruise was coming to an end even though our brains were getting rather befuddled and full of information. Once again our table had a lovely time chatting –what a pleasure it was to spend time with Cathy, Dot, Marlene and Thomas…we never did see the other person who had been allocated to our table (we must have looked scary). Nearly every evening we were among the last tables to leave the dining room. Thanks for your company each night my new friends!

319 the dining room

The evening post-dinner session was held back in Cleopatra’s Needle and there were lots of prizes handed out to participants and my table mates were all thrilled that the big prize of $2500 towards any Unlock the Past cruise went to our new-found friend Marlene!! I think we were more excited than she was as she seemed quite stunned but accepted her prize with what is her characteristic graciousness.

The waiter's finale

The waiter’s finale

Chris Paton gave the final presentation of the conference speaking on British civilian POWs in the First World War. While it has specific relevance to his family it had broader implications and was a fascinating study of Ruhleben Internment Camp. After the nuts and bolts of the conference talks it was intriguing to listen to a broader historical topic. It was amazing to hear the diversity of learning that occurred in the camp as professionals and academics (and no doubt tradesmen) passed their skills on to their fellow internees.

Thank you to Unlock the Past for the learning opportunity of a conference held on board ship. I thoroughly enjoyed myself despite my earlier “me, cruise…never!” attitude. Now I think I may have caught the cruising bug! I will most likely write a separate post in a day or two on my general perspectives of the cruise.

616 sunrise in Sydney

Thank you also to each of you for journeying along with me…I hope you’ve got a sense of the fun we had, and that I’ve shared some of the learning opportunities.

The steward's towel monkey...our final towel creation.

The steward’s towel monkey…our final towel creation.

Diary of a Genea-Cruise: Days 7 and 8 – Hobart Town

It was a longish voyage from Adelaide to Hobart (yes, I know, our ancestors would disagree!)  so we had a combination day with genealogy and then some sight-seeing after our arrival in port at 2pm.

The sailing ship Florentia. Image from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and reproduced with permission. Image PW 7704

The sailing ship Florentia. Image from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and reproduced with permission. Image PW 7704

I loved arriving by sea into Hobart because it brought to mind that Mary O’Brien had probably come this way before me, back on 4 April 1853. Just imagine the relief of all those on board the Florentia after four and a half months at sea, with a diminishing supply of provisions. Hobart is such a pretty town with its encircling hills and Mount Wellington towering over the city. It may not have the drama of Sydney’s sandstone cliffs but it has an amiable, welcoming vibe. I could happily live in Hobart but that wouldn’t be an improvement on the remoteness of Darwin, and my heat-loving tropical friends would simply refuse to visit. It must surely have been appealing though to the immigrants from Ireland, England and Wales on board the Florentia.(Apologies to my mates who are heartily sick of Mary O’Brien from County Clare).

It was a public holiday for Regatta Day as the captain brought his huge ship to dock at the wharf. Little boats were skimming round the harbour but my friend Sharn and I chose to head off along the wharf to Salamanca Place and Battery Point for some sight-seeing. Having decided to stop for a coffee, we joined other Unlock the Past Cruisers for a chat at a local coffee shop.

Sailing into Hobart on Day 7

Sailing into Hobart on Day 7

But first there was some genealogy while still at sea:

Dealing with Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy (panel discussion)

GeniAus (Jill Ball) hosted this Panel on Ethics which got good feedback from the audience. The panel was Kirsty Gray, Maria Northcote and myself and Jill had prepared a range of pertinent questions for us to respond to in turn. It was interesting to see the consistency between our responses …and there’d been no prior consultation or discussion. (if anyone has thought on the session I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on the panel – difficult to retain it all while in the thick of it)

391 ethical dilemmas

Chris Paton again unravelled the complexities and variability of Scottish records with his talk Scottish marriage: instantly buckled for life. Scotland may be (currently) part of the UK, but Scottish family history is really not the same as that for England, make no mistake! Among the warnings Chris issued is that people only needed to have a witness to their commitment and the marriage was a valid one, and also the the (wonderful) ScotlandsPeople only has marriages for the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Churches. If you can’t find your ancestors you may wish to follow up the Statistical Accounts to see which other denominations were active in their parish at the time. 

After arrival in Hobart people scattered to their various activities and plans. I was fortunate to spent a few fun hours with fellow genie and photo obsessive, Sharn from Family History 4 U. Some of my photos from the day will eventually make it to my photo and travel blog Tropical Territory and Travel which has been sadly neglected of late, like other things. Although the weather looked a little precarious in the beginning it turned into a magnificent afternoon with crystal clear vivid blue skies.

The day finished with a very good fireworks display over the harbour, with resounding toots of the ship’s “horn” in thanks for the display. It certainly gathered the crowds on the high decks and afterwards I was invited to join my table-mates, Cathy and Dot and friend Maria in the cocktail bar on Deck 14…a very pleasant end to the day.

547 painting the shipDay 8 was another full day in port and imagine our surprise to look out from the verandah and see another cruise ship had arrived overnight. It was interesting to see that life at sea involves little down-time for the crew who were busy painting any blemishes on the ship’s hull.

My priority for Day 8 ( a shore day) was to hit the archives in Hobart although initially I’d hoped to go to the Cascade Factory. However that was superseded by following up all possible leads on the Florentia and whether they would offer any further clues to whether Mary O’Brien was on board as an unassisted immigrant when the ship sailed into Hobart. Despite searching a range of pre-ordered documents, the answers were still ambiguous by the end of the day. My research outcomes re the Florentia will be the subject of an upcoming post.

And so we sailed from Hobart Town with my thoughts reflecting on whether Mary O’Brien and her sister Bridget were similarly sorry to leave this pretty place behind to head north to Moreton Bay, or in my case, to Sydney Town.

Leaving Hobart behind.

Leaving Hobart behind.

Diary of a Genea-Cruise: Day 6 – Motion on the Ocean

Before I tell you a little about Day 6 of our genea-journey, for those who are interested, the slides from my talk Becoming a fan of FANs is now on a separate tab on my blog under Presentations. Here is a quick link to it.420 shreck

Day 6 of our adventure was a sea-day en route between Adelaide and Hobart. The Captain warned us there’d be “motion on the ocean” but it was pretty good. By the time we got to Hobart we were swaying on land, not ocean.

Although we were so preoccupied with the many presentations in the conference room I occasionally caught a glimpse of the featured DeamWorks characters which are a feature of Voyager of the Seas so I grabbed photos of them for the grandchildren.

Kerry Farmer: Convicts from trial to freedom

Although I have no convicts in my ancestry (no royalty here or abroad! Just a peasant), I just had to listen to Kerry Farmer’s talk on Convicts. Kerry is such a good presenter and sets out information clearly and concisely. Ancestry and FindMyPast both have good convict records. I was interested in the Parramatta Female Factory information and especially the Roman Catholic orphanage.

She reminded us too, that it was secondary offenders who ended up in places like Moreton Bay, Port Arthur and Norfolk Island. However, there were exiles (the later convicts circa 1840s) who went directly to Moreton Bay receiving a conditional pardon on arrival.

Key messages (for me): this will be useful when it comes time to do Mr Cassmob’s convict research. Convict deaths may not be registered in the normal death indexes for NSW.

Jill Ball: Free Australian Websites.

Jill gave us a whirlwind tour through the websites she loves to use and it’s amazing just how many wonderful sets of information are online. I’m sure some were familiar were to listeners while others were great reminders of ones we may have visited once upon a time, but had disappeared into the maw of our bookmarks or forgotten. Others provided new points of research. I found I was making notes to myself about following up different aspects of my own research through the websites.

Key messages: Try the ABC (radio) podcasts, searching for genealogy. Visit Mapping our Anzacs (an ANZAC site) which is apparently being taken down “soon”. You can download the whole file so if you want information from there, do it NOW. Don’t forget Family Search wikis for information on your places.

Jane Taubman: Family Historian – Reports

Strange as it may seem I don’t much like genealogy programs as I tend to feel straight-jacketed. I generally prefer to have narrative instead which allows for more nuances.

However I’ve been using an Australian program Relatively Yours for many years because it offers the opportunity to add more personal information and allows for nuances in relationships which the bigger programs don’t always do. Having said all that, I like the clean format of Family Historian which tends to appeal to me.  Because I have yet to decide between these two programs and The Master Genealogist, I attended some of Jane’s talks. When I get home I’ll be playing around with it a little while I decide.

Key message for me: Come to grips with which program I want to use, and which suits my purposes best.

Thomas MacEntee: Google Alerts and Books

817 Thomas MacEnteeAs always Thomas’s talk was full of tips for making our genealogy research more organised and efficient. I knew some of this already from reading Thomas’s and other blogger’s posts on the topic.

Do you have alerts in place for your family’s street addresses, towns, your own website or blog, your areas of interest?

Don’t forget you can set up a Bookcase of books which you find on Google Books and mark them private or public. Don’t shy away from “limited view” books and also use more common phrases to look at other pages.

Key message: Use alerts and Google Books to the max. Kudos to Thomas for always repeating the question from the audience so everyone knows what was asked.

Geneareaders Circle hosted by Jill Ball

This was such a fun activity with a group of people sharing their favourite genealogy or history books. It was interesting to see even relatively esoteric books were held by others in the group.

Apart from the joy of learning about new books to follow up, it was a pleasure just to share with like-minded people.

It was both heart-warming and amusing to see Maria Northcote from Genies Down Under nearly fall off her chair when one of the participants, Alan Jones, talked about his SAG thesis on Kilmihil, the very place in Clare where Maria’s ancestors came from. You can imagine the chat that ensued!

Genies Down Under

After the circle, Jill Ball and I were interviewed by Maria for the podcast which was fun as well. Maria’s included her chat with Jill and I, as well as Alan Philips, Chris Paton and Joy Avery in her March podcast here. It’s very obvious we were having a good time and no longer noticed the ship was working its way through the captain’s famous “motion on the ocean”. Maria is just a delight to chat with, and so calm and quietly confident.

Key message: A great opportunity for attendees to get involved and share their love of books. Thanks Jill for this inspired idea. If you’re going on a genea-cruise do make sure you add this to your list of “must attend” events.

Sorry this has been so long arriving – it’s been sitting in my drafts waiting for the photos to accompany the story..and now can’t find ones I’m happy with…except a great photo of Thomas on the welcome night. I did better when I was on board ship.

art work

Anne Daniels from Drawing on the Past, offered sessions on photo collage for family history.