Sepia Saturday 178: Faces with Drama

sepia saturday 178This week’s Sepia Saturday image is a dramatic image of a young woman against a dark background. My thoughts flew immediately to the cover of my Kunkel Family History book, designed by local graphic artist Vanessa Schulze from photographs of my Kunkel great-great grandparents.

For years I’d been researching this family and writing up their story was in my “gunna” pile. One day I decided it would be a major life regret if I didn’t buckle down and complete it. And since I was going to write it, it seemed only appropriate to have a hard back cover that would last for ages and become a family heirloom. I had some feeble ideas about the cover design but I couldn’t believe the huge difference my daughter’s contact made to the final product. The faces of George Mathias Kunkel and Mary O’Brien gaze almost confrontingly from the darkness of the background. You can see the strength of pioneers in their faces.

Kunkel book cover crop

One of the greatest thrills of my life was seeing my book in print and holding it in my hands. Not quite up there with my marriage or my children’s births, but pretty good all the same <smile>.

For all that Mary’s face seems as if it should be the less dominant, her steady gaze is what catches my eye first. And I can’t help wondering if I can see her eyes two-toned as mine are. You can read a little about her here

There are lots of references on my blog to the Kunkel family but this post reveals how I finally handled the roadblock (or mental block?) I’d had about describing George Kunkel’s departure from Dorfprozelten in Bavaria. It was clearly indicated as a hypothetical story but based on the facts of the village which I’d visited a few times and read about in the local history.

Or you might be interested in learning a little about how this pioneering family celebrated Christmas, and the Bavarian traditions that George brought with him, from this story.

Sepia Saturday 175: Thinking of my Dad

Sepia Saturday 175Late again! This week’s Sepia Saturday had me thinking of all the smokers in the family, especially my Dad. I have never been a smoker, but most of those around me at work or at home, were. It was just normal at the time.

I was surprised looking through my photos that I actually had relatively few of anyone, cigarette in hand. One or two of Granddad with his pipe, none of Mr Cassmob but quite a few youthful photos of Dad, some alone, some with me.

Dad at the beach during my parents' honeymoon, pipe in hand.

Dad at the beach during my parents’ honeymoon, pipe in hand.

With me at the beach, cigarette in hand.

With me at the beach, cigarette in hand.

On the rocks at Rocky Bay, Magnetic Island.

On the rocks at Rocky Bay, Magnetic Island.

Dad was healthy – he had to be because he walked for eight hours straight every day in the railway yards, many miles in a dangerous environment. For possibly the first twenty years of his working life there were steam trains, progressively fading out over the years. By the time Dad was fifty, our friend, a physician, said he had the worst lungs he’d ever seen, full of coal dust. Dad also smoked until he was in his 70s.

For ten years before he died Dad was on oxygen 24/7. Coal dust or cigarettes: which was the major problem? Impossible to say. No doubt the coal dust played a part offset by the lung capacity from walking every day and a longevity gene. 

I wouldn’t wish it on anyone to watch someone they love cough hackingly, be too embarrassed to go out in public accompanied by the oxygen cylinder, totally dependent on it for breathing and vulnerable to power outages. Smoking isn’t sexy or sophisticated: it can and does kill. Hence the bans on cigarette advertisements and the warning notices on cigarette packs. I could have included a photo of Dad, wired up for oxygen, but I preferred to show him full of youth and vigour, and also to respect his privacy in ill-health.

The timing of Dad’s death is inextricably linked in my mind with the re-election of the ALP to government in Australia which was happening during his final stint in hospital. Dad died on the same day as Australia’s campaigner for compensation for those with illnesses caused by work-place asbestos. Both men’s deaths were, at a minimum, contributed to by work-place dangers. Ironic I suppose in conjunction with the election into government of Australia’s party for the working person.

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).