So this is Christmas 2014 – a geneameme

Christmas_L6My friend Sharn from FamilyHistory4U blog has set us all a Christmas geneameme challenge.In previous years I’ve posted on the Geneabloggers’ Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories and this meme offers a change of pace for me. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to check with mum on a couple of the questions.

1. What kind of Christmas did you have as a child? 

Baby Jesus in mangerChristmas was always a religious event at our house with Midnight Mass and adoration on Christmas Eve. I’d often pester my father, who was a non-Catholic, to come with us….poor man, he got no Christmas peace. Our Christmas celebrations were pretty low key as we have a small extended family and so it was usually just roast dinner with Christmas pudding and cake.

  1. Where did you spend Christmas?

We always spent Christmas at home, apart from when we’d visit my maternal grandfather’s house across town – no mean feat on a public holiday using public transport.  Mum tells me we mainly did this before her mother died, and only occasionally after that, which surprises me that I can remember, as I was only a small child when she died.

The maximum number of people we had were my own family, plus grandfather and sometimes one set of maternal aunts and uncles and cousins, so between 7 and 11 tops. For the life of me I can’t remember my paternal grandparents, who lived next door, being invited to partake in Christmas lunch….don’t go there, sigh…perhaps Grandma came over after Grandad died. Mum tells me the rellies would come over on Boxing Day mostly.

Image from Shutterstock.com

Image from Shutterstock.com

When I was a child we never went away on holidays at this time of year because it was peak period and expensive.

When we lived in Brisbane I used to dislike (hate/loathe) sitting in the northbound traffic to visit rellies, while the southbound freeway was totally free.

Mostly we’re at home for Christmas, though once when we lived in Papua New Guinea and once (or twice?) since we’ve been in Darwin, we’ve been back to Brisbane for Christmas. Once we had a white Christmas in Lucerne (some of the family) and once Himself and I returned from a trip on Christmas Eve, just a tiny bit jetlagged. And a few years ago we had Christmas in Tasmania with DD1.

  1. A letter and something yummy for Santa

I may have written to Santa (surely everyone did?) but I have no recollection of doing so. We certainly didn’t leave anything out for Santa or the reindeer – I remember being a bit mystified to find that other people did that.

Our gum tree Christmas tree when I was a child.

Our gum tree Christmas tree when I was a child.

  1. The Christmas Tree

Yes, we always had a Christmas Tree and it was always a small gum tree (eucalyptus) from down the creek bank near our house I’m pretty sure we only put it up close to Christmas so it would survive.

We still maintain our family tradition of putting up the tree together, though now it’s an artificial one, and we always decorate it while playing Christmas music. It basically stays up over Advent.

  1. Decorating the Christmas Tree 

Mum and I would decorate the tree together as Dad would either be on shift-work or think he was too clumsy. I think we had a mix of handmade and special glass baubles. I see in one photo we had balloons – I guess gum trees are less spikey than firs.

We have a wide variety of Christmas tree decorations – no colour-coordinated themes for the Cass mob. Some go back to the first year of our marriage, some were made by our children, some were gifts and quite a few have been brought back from our travels which has become a family tradition, helped by the fact we often travel off-season.Xmas decorations collage

  1. Did you decorate outdoors? 

Not really. I think we may have had some sort of wreath but no lights as they were not readily available then, as far as I know.  I don’t remember anyone else doing it either, unless it was those paper chains we made as kids…but then it is the rainy season in Queensland (and Darwin). These days we put up a wreath and solar lights in the frangipani.

7  Christmas Cards

P1160921Mum would write our Christmas cards and send them to a small group of family and friends…she has amazingly neat writing, even in her advanced years. What did we do with them? Hmmm, I think we may have cut them up and used them for craft and Mum would save the stamps and send them to the Missions. If I remember correctly they were hung on tinsel with our clock in the centre (why, I don’t know).

Remember when the postie would do two mail “runs” a day in the stinking heat of a Brisbane summer? We would always have a cold drink for him when he came by with his big pack…I think he was more like Santa than Santa himself.

These days I send electronic cards to some, paper cards to the older generation and try to ring my interstate friends for a catch-up chat…more fun, and informative, than a card.

I made this kermit stocking for my youngest daughter but it is really only used for decoration.

I made this kermit stocking for my youngest daughter but it is really only used for decoration.

  1. Christmas Stockings 

No, I never had a Christmas stocking other than those ones you bought in the shops with little round lollies, blowers, cartoons etc, which I really liked. All our presents would go under the tree. In my husband’s family there would be one gift at the bottom of the kids’ beds and they were told when they first woke up they could open that and read (it was usually a book). We maintained that tradition too, but the joy of Midnight Mass is that it makes the kids too tired to wake up super-early.

9. Christmas Presents

I got presents from Mum and Dad and Santa, something from my grandparents and a small gift from my aunts and uncles, and I would swap gifts with close friends. I think I made small gifts for my parents and I remember the first time I was able to go shopping in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley for gifts for my parents. Mum’s confirmed we didn’t do gifts for the nuns who taught me.

My bride doll Mary on display.

My bride doll Mary on display.

I remember that it was traditional to always leave out some beer as gifts for the garbos in those days when they had to carry the bins and empty them manually. The milko also got something.

These days we’ve rationalised our family present buying: the adults exchange a secret Santa gift to a limited amount and I swap presents with some of my friends. Ironically my oldest friend and I don’t do presents any more – we ran out of inventiveness – but if we see something during the year we’ll buy it at the time.

Each year we have a craft session with the grandchildren when they make gifts for their parents. They seem to have a good time and so do we. I remember some school holidays when the girls were young and we had chaos while neighbourhood kids made fymo necklaces and decorations.

  1. Your favourite Christmas Present

Well I’d be stretching it being confident about this but one I very much remember was a large Readers Digest book on animals. I was desperate that it would be among my gifts and was thrilled when I did, but was it a Christmas or birthday gift? I still have it in my library.

Actually my favourite Christmas present was always a book, any book. A sad Christmas would be one with no book (don’t think that every happened). I still have many of them, especially some from one of Mum’s close friends.

  1. Was there an unrealistic present you wanted but never received?  

I was going to say “no” but on further reflection, every year I wished for a baby sister or brother but it never happened. Obviously that was not in God’s plan for our family.

12. Did you give gifts to teachers and friends at school? 

I thought I might have given presents to the nuns in high school but mum thinks not, and since she would have done the buying (what mum doesn’t?) then I’d guess not. I don’t think it was the almost compulsory activity it has been with our children onwards. Perhaps we just gave them a holy Christmas card.

Again, close friends exchanged gifts but the wider circle of girls would exchange holy pictures with messages on them.

Christmas in Tasmania was all about the seafood and a fantastic meal by DD1, oh yes, and the company :)

Christmas in Tasmania was all about the seafood and a fantastic meal by DD1.

  1. Christmas Food
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. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Now this I do remember!

Despite the heat we always had a hot Christmas meal. Chicken was an expensive treat in those days and I don’t recall anyone having turkey or seafood. Roast potatoes, carrots and onions with peas for vegetables. Steamed Christmas pudding, custard and cream for dessert (yes please Dad would say, meaning all three). Shortbread was made according to my Scottish grandmother’s recipe and we would always have crystallised ginger on the table….one of Mum’s favourites. Dad might have a  beer (remember that Scottish mother) but no one else had anything alcoholic.

We always had our meal inside on a formally dressed table with all my parents’ quality linen and crystal…one of the few times each year that the crystal made an appearance.

  1. A special Christmas Recipe

Yes we made the shortbread (see above) which I still make to Grandma’s recipe. The pudding was also her recipe and is a delicious, moist version. Mum made the same delicious Christmas cake for decades which I also made until I found a new recipe for a Green Peppercorn Christmas Cake which we really like but which no longer likes me…sigh.

  1. Christmas Traditions 
Backyard Christmas celebrations Gerehu, Port Moresby.

Back yard Christmas celebrations Gerehu, Port Moresby.

Bon bons were always on the table too with their usual sad jokes but still fun. We didn’t go carolling – that was done around the church services and we also listened to them at home.

And yes, grace before and after meals –always, not just at Christmas.

In Papua New Guinea where we were all far from our families of origin, we would hold Christmas gatherings of friends and rotate through different households from year to year. It was always great fun.

  1. Christmas Music 

Me, in a choir?? Thank heavens, no! Mum has a good voice and I would sing at home but that was it. Dad was tone deaf unfortunately and couldn’t even carry a tune. We would listen to the music on LPs once we got a player and one of our first Christmas records was one which included Oh Tannenbaum. That was when I was learning German so I guess we got it when I was in Grade 10.

At church in Brisbane the band would play carols before and during Mass, but then let rip with the liveliest ones as the Mass ended.

It’s a shame that the abuse of Christmas carols in shops as a marketing ploy has taken the edge off our enjoyment of such a happy part of Christmas.

For a very long time our family would go to Carols by Candlelight in the park in Brisbane – our youngest even went when she was only a few weeks old. It was a very special part of our family’s Christmas tradition until it became way too commercialised and tacky.

nana-mouskouri 1_edited-1We love listening to a CD we have of Carols from Oxford…just so relaxing.

  1. Your favourite Christmas Carol 

Can I remember that far back? I guess the traditional ones like Silent Night and Away in a Manger then as a teenager Oh Tannenbaum. As an adult, Feliz Navidad, the Little Drummer Boy, and Mary’s Boy Child are my absolute favourites.

  1. Christmas Parties

Our family didn’t do parties, period. I remember being taken to the Railway Club where I got presents but not every year. I was in Guides but again, I have no recollection of having parties there.

Hmm, I guess I contradicted myself with the Gerehu parties above, but then I didn’t really see them as parties per se.

  1. Christmas Concerts/Plays

Mum confirmed for me that we didn’t have Christmas concerts at my primary school, only St Patrick’s Day ones. We didn’t have them at All Hallows’ because every second year was the state-wide exam so we all finished school on different days.

20. Christmas Holidays

As I mentioned, we never went away over the summer holidays so mine were spent hanging around the house, playing with the kids who also were at home. I remember that at least once we went up to my aunt and uncle’s camp site at Noosa, right in the midst of what is now a very upmarket resort. My cousin says we stayed with them at least once, but I only remember visiting.

I loved it when I got books as Christmas presents and could just hide from the heat and read…not that mum was so keen on that idea when there were jobs to be done <smile>. One Christmas in high school I read an entire collection of Dickens’ books which my cousin had left with us to mind. Since I read books like a glutton at a smorgasborg I’ve forgotten much of what I read.

Christmas Holiday camping at Hastings Point in northern NSW

Christmas Holiday camping at Hastings Point in northern NSW….a packed “house”…better to just visit.

21 What is your earliest Christmas memory? 

Whew, my brain is stretched from all these questions….I don’t have a specific memory but I guess it might be the year I got my bride doll.

Thanks Sharn for inventing this meme for us. I’m looking forward to seeing what others have written – it’s so interesting to see the things we have in common, and the ways we differ.

 

 

 

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

 

 

Time for a coffee break: the Book of Me and our first house

Book of meJulie Goucher from Anglers Rest blog has been running a series called The Book of Me for some time. My good intentions came to naught some time ago and I haven’t written on many of the topics. This week’s topic, though, is about “your first home” and Julie has given us free rein to interpret this any way we like, and it seems I’ve gone off for a gallup. I’ve written previously about my grandparents’ house and a little about my home growing up, but today I thought I’d like to share with you the story of our first home together as a married couple. It’s turned into a long yarn, so take a tea break and settle in for a read.

P1170161Mr Cassmob and I married many decades ago in suburban Brisbane. Two weeks later we flew to the then-Territory of Papua New Guinea where he had grown up and had a job with the Education Department in Alotau, Milne Bay. The departure at Brisbane airport was wrenching and full of tears all round – I have a clear memory of one of my male friends from uni standing with my girlfriends weeping on each shoulder. Port Moresby was to be our first stop on my first “proper” flight. I was “armed” with my new entry permit, issued in my married name, probably the first such document, come to think of it.

The heat hit with a soggy smack as we disembarked the aircraft and I remember smell of the tropics, and that the local ground crew were dressed in lap-laps. Absolutely nothing was the same as I was used to and it was all such a massive change after my life in a working class Brisbane suburb. We spent a few days in Moresby with my sister-in-law who was then studying at the new University of Papua New Guinea but we were keen to get on with our new life together.

Milne Bay Province is on the south-eastern corner of Papua New Guinea. Image from Google Earth.

Milne Bay Province is on the south-eastern corner of Papua New Guinea. Image from Google Earth.

The view of Milne Bay from the relaxation area under the house, circa 1968.

The view of Milne Bay from the relaxation area under the house, circa 1968.

We flew into Gurney airstrip in Milne Bay in a Piaggio aircraft, a cosy nine-seater, though that would have been pretty squashy.  For once, luckily, we were the only passengers and the weather was clear that day[i]. We collected our luggage from the bush-materials shed which served as the arrival hall. I remember our drive into the town of Alotau from Gurney through dense trees with glimpses of the Bay and occasional villages, crossing the three or four unbridged creeks that were part of the journey. And then we were there…our new home!

Strangely I found Alotau much less confronting than Moresby even though it was such a small town of a few hundred people and an even smaller expat community. I guess the magnificent scenery went some way to mitigating the rest of it. We were to spend our first months as a couple in the house of my parents-in-law, who had been posted to Moresby for a few months (why, I don’t recall). In most respects it was a typical government-issued house of the era, and very like Darwin’s high-set houses.

THEN: The Cass family's first home in Alotau, taken soon after the move from Samarai 1968.

THEN: The Cass family’s first home in Alotau, taken soon after the move from Samarai 1968.

What was unusual was its spectacular location with a view over Milne Bay. Alotau was a newly-established town, purpose-built when the government decided to move the Milne Bay District headquarters from the island of Samarai to the mainland. The Education Department had an allocated government trawler, used to do school inspections in the remote far-flung islands of the district, for which Mr Cassmob Senior was the District Inspector.  As such he was able to choose where their house would be built in Alotau… sounding a little colonial? The story goes that he took the trawler up the bay and pointed to a fabulous spot with views of the Bay in front and, at the back of the block, of the cloud-draped mountains. Only the District Commissioner had a better view <smile>.

The house itself was on metal stilts to catch the breezes, reminiscent of many Brisbane houses but much more open and more “flimsy”. Louvres ran the length of each room and were floor-to-ceiling. At the lower level they were metal louvres, but at the top they were glass. The walls were a fibro-like construction and the floors were beautiful polished timber. The kitchen, dining room and lounge were essentially an L-shaped open plan with the stairwell coming up adjacent to the kitchen wall. It had three large bedrooms and a bathroom with a basic shower.

NOW: The old Cass home in Top Town, 2012. The verandah upstairs is an addition as is the fencing on the bottom level.

NOW: The old Cass home in Top Town, 2012. The verandah upstairs is an addition as is the fencing on the bottom level.

Government houses were issued with furniture from Government Stores. It was perfectly functional but would never win any design awards. Simple aluminium tables and chairs, ditto the beds, and a reasonable but basic lounge suite. Mr Cassmob Snr was skilled with his hands and had made some lovely wooden bookcases and coffee tables. Most of the houses were of similar designs which made it easy when you moved from one place to another – just put everything where it “belongs”. You made the house your own by the memorabilia and decorations you used and the soft furnishings you’d sewn. It it was always interesting to visit someone else’s house to see their style…and you never had to ask where the bathroom was <wink>.

THEN: Part of the much loved gardens 1960s - 1970s.

THEN: Part of the much loved gardens 1960s – 1970s.

One humungous difference from my earlier life was that, along with the borrowed house, we had house staff. Poor Jimmy….what a challenge he had with the new sinebada[ii]….I probably drove him demented. I had known in advance that the kitchen oven was a slow-combustion stove so I’d asked my aunty Bonnie, who knew about these things, how to work with them. She had told me that I needed to keep the heat pads down (or was it up?) on the elements to keep the heat in. Jimmy had the opposite view so we spent weeks putting them up and down in turns. How ridiculous! I should have just let him get on with it! On the up side he also chopped the wood for the oven so we didn’t have to worry about it until our next house when we chose not to have house staff.

NOW: You can glimpse the mountains at the rear of the house. Sadly the hibiscus plants are no more. Taken 2012.

NOW: You can glimpse the mountains at the rear of the house. Sadly the hibiscus plants are no more. Taken 2012.

Under the house was an open space with a relaxing area where we’d have an evening drink and nibbles, a Cass family tradition. Around the back of the stairwell was the open-air laundry with its high-tech twin tub washing machine.

Mrs Cassmob Senior was a mad-keen gardener and their garden was a delight. She had lots of hibiscus growing and had even imported some from Hawaii, especially a lovely lilac one. She passed her love of flowers on to her children so I have her to thank for the flowers I’m given regularly.  Each day Jimmy would pick a hibiscus and put it in the upside-down fish-bowl-vase on the dining table.

Bougainvillea not hibiscus, but you get the idea.

Bougainvillea not hibiscus, but you get the idea.

Milne Bay is very wet and the jungle reached up to the garden’s boundary with ferns and staghorns. I don’t think I fully appreciated the beauty of that garden in those days. I think my mother-in-law enjoyed spending time in it. She was born a country girl, and with her husband away for long periods on the trawler, and children away at boarding school, it probably gave her relaxation away from

her own job as a teacher at the primary school across the road.

Nowhere in PNG had television as well so our entertainment was self-driven, or a movie at the Cameron Club (don’t get excited, not as flash as it sounds). There were no restaurants so we had friends over for dinner and vice versa. There were four trade stores with a minimal variety of items, rather like something from an old Western-style movie. No department stores like TC Beirne’s, David Jones, Myer or McWhirter, no walking from the Valley to the City looking at which particular item suited best. Doing some sewing on my mother-in-law’s machine? Need cotton? Don’t worry about colour matching – choose between black and white and maybe one or two other colours.

Milne Bay, Alotau

This shows the main street of Alotau in 2012 with far more shops than were there in our day. Above the power lines you can see the line of houses where the Cass family lived…theirs used to be the last one in the street.

Major groceries were ordered in by mail from Samarai, where the “big” shops were still based because of its place on the shipping lanes, and they came in to us by trawler. Meat and other freezer goods were ordered from Moresby and came in by plane – when the clouds weren’t socking in the bay. You can imagine the potential for confusion with three Cass families spread around PNG – we’d wind up with each other’s freezer accounts…and as for our government staff files!

The Cameron Club promoting everyone's favourite tipple. We used to go to part-open-air movies here weekly.

The Cameron Club promoting everyone’s favourite tipple. We used to go to part-open-air movies here weekly.

The Alotau power system was only on for 18 hours a day so we also had kerosene lamps, and torches, handy for the hours between midnight and six. We would have to rush home from the movies at the Cameron Club to get the coffee made before the power went out.

Although the phone system had recently progressed from the previous radio telephone (over), it was erratic, expensive, and unless you wanted to share your conversation with the whole street, not worth bothering with. Instead I wrote regular lengthy letters to my parents and friends back in Brisbane. Unfortunately I have none from those early days, not even the first letter of 19 pages I wrote to Mum and Dad. And did I mention that in those early months, during the Wet Season, mail didn’t arrive when the plane couldn’t get in?

So much of that time disappeared from my memory in the overwhelming changes that I was adapting to and I really wish that I had some of those letters to remind me, or had written a diary. Before that first year was out I had come to love Papua New Guinea despite its challenges…it had become home. This was part of the reason we made a trip back in 2012…always risky to revisit a place but we still loved it. You can read some of those stories herehere, and here.

A long story from me, as always, and not just about our first house, but as with family history generally, it’s about context.

Milne Bay women dancing at the Kenu and Kundu Festival, Alotau 2012.

Milne Bay women dancing at the Kenu and Kundu Festival, Alotau 2012.

[i] Flying in PNG is notoriously risky as this website shows http://aviation-safety.net/database/dblist.php?Country=P2. Strangely it doesn’t include the one in Milne Bay that occurred soon after we arrived there.

[ii] Roughly translated, a white lady, now more often called dimdim.

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.

Sepia Saturday : Skiing the black runs…or not!

Looking the part as we set forth from our cabin.

Looking the part as we set forth from our cabin at Methven.

Back in 1984, the Cass Mob ventured forth on their first skiing expedition as part of a driving trip around New Zealand. We’d first been there in 1975 but at a different time of the year, and with no plans to ski. This time we had promised the girls there’d be snow…and plenty of it.

Sure enough there was plenty as we drove over Arthur’s Pass without chains (don’t even go into the reason behind that, thank you Avis!)..scary enough that another driver had a heart attack. But by the time we got to our cabin near the Mt Hutt ski-fields, snow was a little thin on the ground.

Bizarrely at the same time there was actually snow falling at Stanthorpe, about 150kms from where we lived, and Dad always vowed and declared that when he was on night shift in the Roma St Railway yards that week, there’d been snowflakes which melted before hitting the ground. And there we were, almost snow-less in the ski-fields….well I exaggerate a little.

I suspect DD2 was laughing like a drain at this point. And big sister wanted to help. DD3 and I knew we'd be useless.

I suspect DD2 was laughing, or hamming it up, at this point. And big sister wanted to help. DD3 and I knew we’d be useless. Mt Hutt 1984

I think these photos were taken on our very first skiing expedition and as you can see we were the picture of skill, grace and glamour! I was clever enough not to be photographed actually trying to do anything!! That night there was a massive dump of snow and we were holed up in our cabin, log fire, marshmellows, games and books.Louisa and Bec skiing Mt HuttA couple of days later we were able to venture up what was a rather scary road for we sub-tropical folk and have another go at skiing. I think it’s safe to say that Mr Cassmob and I promptly decided any winter sports skills we had would be confined to skating, not skiing. Before we left that day the older two were whizzing down steep slopes quite confidently.

My feet are supposed to do what...?

My feet are supposed to do what…?

It was traditional at their school to do a ski trip in their final year of school. Each and every one of our little “angels” made it their mission to ski the black runs before they came home!! But my abiding memory is the bedraggled group of young ladies who set forth on one of the trips the night after their Year 12 final….wild and woolly.

Always keen for a pose...just like her daughter is now.

Always keen for a pose…just like her daughter is now. Mt Hutt 1984

I was going to say that was the start and finish of our skiing adventures, but I just remembered I took DD3 and her cousin to the Snowy Mountains one September holidays when I had a week off work with the kids and it suddenly started dumping. So a 3000km drive to go for a few days’ skiing…I must really be mad!

What was that about posing? Surely I look the part at least?

What was that about posing? Surely I look the part at least? Perisher 1990

We camped among the snow gums below the snow line at Sawpit Creek and had possums visiting us every night. Possums have something in common with humans – they like to eat what they shouldn’t, especially marshmellows.Bec and possum Snowy

The kids had fun… attempting to ski and building a snowman and generally playing in the snow.

Having fun -the headband actually says "Ski Austria" not "Ski Australia"

Having fun -the headband actually says “Ski Austria” not “Ski Australia”

Posing seemed to be the name of the game.

Pauleen posing at Perisher -seemed to be the name of the game.

Camping below the snow line was a bit of a challenge though…one way to use every article of warm clothing in the car. And they made sure I paid for it with this glamour shot…after all when it’s below zero who cares how you look!

I wonder just how many layers I was wearing?

I wonder just how many layers I was wearing?

Why not see what  other Sepians have had to say about snow and skiing this week. Was it something they’re sick of or longing for?

Sepia Saturday 212

Book of Me: Home is where the heart is.

Book of meThe prompt for week 20 in the 15 month series of Book of Me is “Home”: Home means different things to different people, so this week we are going to explore what it means to us: What does it feel like? How do you recognise it? What makes it home -people, place, time. This will be a long post I fear, so get comfortable with a coffee or tea.

This is something I’ve pondered generally over a long time, in the context of my own life but also for my emigrant ancestors. Were they ever truly at home in Australia or did they still think of their places of birth as home? Did they hanker for grey skies, old buildings, green fields? Of course these are answers I’ll never have since there are no diaries to read, no letters and no oral history touching on the topic.

My own sense of home is sometimes elusive. We are empty nesters and our “children” have established their own homes. They are family but they are no longer part of “home” except inasmuch they live in the same city.Peter and Springer low

The core of “home” for me is my husband, Mr Cassmob. We’ve been together so long it’s almost impossible to imagine home without him, though that will be a reality one or other of us will have to face one day, hopefully far in the future. Another part of home on a daily basis is our very indulged fluffy tabby cat, Springer. Certainly both of us felt a gap in our lives when he went missing for seven weeks last year. He has, I suppose, become a surrogate “child”: he even gracefully returns our affections – when it suits him – occasionally.

My childhood home.

My childhood home.

After spending all my younger years years in one house, , our own family has moved house eleven times, some houses being but passing phases, others being our home for long periods. While I’ve loved living in each of our houses, the house itself does not define home, except for the duration we live there. If we return for a drive-by it’s out of curiosity to see what’s changed and especially to look at the garden. So I guess we have to add the garden to a sense of home. It may be a townhouse block or a larger suburban block, but the plants and birds who visit become part of our feeling of home. And in every house, a cat has been part of our home.29 bally st 7 front

There is really only one house for which I feel nostalgic and that’s my my grandparents’ house which I visited daily as a child. I think it was the indulgence and exploration that made it so irresistable. That is perhaps the home of “time”, a special place in memory and affection.

Other than husband and cat, the constants of home are the belongings we treasure and take with us from house to house. Always a core of books, special items and “treasures” we’ve acquired wherever we’ve lived or travelled. Very little has any real commercial value, but they reflect our lives. It’s hard to imagine our home without them, though that is something that has to be considered when living with the annual risk of cyclones. Perhaps that’s why my cyclone emergency packing pays minimal attention to clothes, linen and other practicalities. It’s interesting to ponder what I would take with me to define home if we were to spend an extended time overseas.

DSC_0272 (2)

Is “home” a specific place for me? For a long time Brisbane was home, as I’d known no other. That changed when I went to live in Papua New Guinea after we married, the transition to a new sense of home being surprisingly speedy. Returning to PNG in 2012, there was a real sense of being home again: the familiarity of place and people. We feel the same every time our plane lands in Cairns because the density of the tropical ranges evoke PNG so clearly. Now, each place we live imprints itself on mind and emotion.

DSC_0368

My parents didn’t own a car until I was in my late teens so Brisbane was a series of disjointed images rather like map segments stuck together. Flying in regularly, my vision of it changed: the serpentine Brisbane River wound its way through the city; the hills enclosing the city and the red-roofed houses seemed so obvious.

Eldest daughter with her Poppy, feeding the lorikeets.

Eldest daughter with her Poppy, feeding the lorikeets.

Brisbane is kookaburras laughing, magpies warbling and lorikeets drunk on nectar. The sound of cicadas on a hot summer’s day. The different flowers and plants of this sub-tropical town: perhaps the best of both “worlds”.Billabong2

DSC_1100The Top End will remain with me for its very different geography and vegetation, and its wide open spaces. The drama of the Wet Season with its fierce electrical storms and torrential rains. The inability to swim in those magnificently turquoise waters (crocodiles, stingers, sharks etc). The tropical beauty of a bush billabong. The peep-peep of the crimson finches in our yard, the flash of colour from a rainbow bee-eater, the strangled laugh of the northern kookaburra, the speed of a whistling kite as it snatches a sausage.

All these places become part of my history of “home” as we move around.

Near Renner Springs NT

Near Renner Springs NT

What remains unchanged is my core sense of Australia as home. Whenever we return from a trip overseas it’s the wide, bright blue skies that strike me first and the vivid colours so different from the northern hemisphere. The sense of space when travelling through our much-mythologised outback. The sound of surf breaking on the vast white sands of our beaches. A huge sky emblazoned with the southern stars and the Southern Cross marking their transition through the night. Its bizarre animals and magnificent native flora. Dorothy Mackellar’s poem, My Country, though a little old-fashioned in style, sums it up well in essence.

So what is truly home for me? On a daily basis it’s Mr Cassmob, the cat, our books and belongings, the garden and its flowers and birds. The house structure is important but only while we live there. Underpinning it all is the sense of place: the affiliation with the land and landscape of Australia in all its manifestations.Birds better

Sepia Saturday 210: Award-winning relatives

This week’s Sepia Saturday focuses on old books and the treasures (photographic or otherwise) found in them.Sepia Saturday 210

I don’t think I’ve ever found photos tucked away in old books but we did find a group photo behind another picture from my Grandparents’ house and I talked about that in my Moustaches and Mystery post recently.

Instead I thought I’d share a few book inscriptions with you. Over the past year I’ve acquired some of the family’s old books, including my childhood books, thanks to Mum’s move to an independent retirement unit.

Book inscriptions can be interesting I think as they reveal otherwise hidden parts of an ancestor’s or relative’s life. Back in the days when books were expensive and only rarely bought by families who weren’t affluent, they were often gifts or even school prizes.

Two of the books I have included prizes awarded to family members. One was for Mr Cassmob’s grandmother, Katie McKenna, for writing in 1901.

Katie McKenna

Another was for my grandmother’s brother, Duncan McCorkindale, who was awarded the prize for passing second stage physiology and physical geography in his Glasgow school.

Duncan McCorkindale

In fact it was something about Duncan that was one of the few things I found tucked away in a bible: the notice of his rather gruesome death in Sydney. Which makes me realise that I’ve never written about that story, or his role in the building of the nation’s capital, Canberra. I need to put that on my blog post list.Irish book

I’m curious who this book belonged to as there’s no inscription, and no publication date. My best guess is that it belonged to my Irish grandfather or one of his children.

A while ago I wrote about a prize that my grandfather’s young brother had won, but I’ve no idea what his prize was. I wonder if it too was a book.

Have you found prize inscriptions in books you’ve inherited, either from your family or a used-book store?

To read the stories other Sepians have submitted this week you can click here.

Flowers of Remembrance Geneameme

La vie en rosesA few days ago I suggested a new open-ended Flowers of Remembrance geneameme: which flowers remind you of your family (close and distant) and perhaps even friends. I’d been reflecting how certain flowers, or plants, made me think of those who’ve gone before me and wondered if other people did the same.

So here is my own response: a mix of fragrances, flowers and plants.

My Aunty Emily (great aunt) was like a grandmother to me after my maternal grandmother died. Aunty Emily makes me think of pansies because they were on the china she gave me and her own china, the magnificent roses in New Farm Park where’d we meet for an outing. She also makes me think of the fragrance of lavender and violets.

HydrangeaMy paternal grandmother is always associated with big blue-purple hydrangeas, which she had growing in tubs under the verandah. I don’t recall ever seeing cut flowers in the house.

My paternal grandfather makes me think of maidenhair fern which he had growing in old casks under the same verandah. Why he makes me think of ferns and her of flowers I don’t know…gender bias?

Dad conjures up thoughts of gerberas and roses. The gerberas were large double ones, usually orange, and he got the seeds from a nursery in Bundaberg (Bauer’s I believe). His Roundelay roses were spectacular and I loved a candy-pink and cream-striped rose that he grew as well, even though I usually dislike variegated plants (can’t retrieve its name). The mango tree and its flowers – the tree that was planted when he was born all those years ago – although a bit scruffy looking, still holding on, ninety odd years later.

PansiesMum and flowers go together like a horse and carriage. We often had cut flowers from the garden in the house. Floral thoughts take me to pansies, sweet peas and Dad’s roses. The roses and sweet peas would go in a crystal vase but the pansies were always displayed in a heart-shaped frosted green-glass dish where they sat perfectly. Mum was also behind my habit of taking flowers to school for feast days and other special occasions. Flower arranging has been a hobby of hers for a very long time, for her own pleasure and for use in the church, or indeed our wedding reception.

DSC_1396Mr Cassmob is forever associated for me with the dainty bunches of violets he would buy for me while we were at uni –the jealous looks I’d get you wouldn’t believe. The fragrance was magnificent. He also evokes red roses and hibiscus and I thank my lucky stars that his mother taught her son not only to love flowers, but to buy them for his wife.

My mother-in-law loved flowers but only displayed them, one or two at a time, in tiny vases. Her favourites were hibiscus which she grew in Papua New Guinea, including importing a special purple one from Hawaii back in the 1960s. Each day a new hibiscus would be placed in a small upside-down bowl on the dining table. At her husband’s funeral we learned that he had bought her yellow roses, so that’s an earlier association.

My father-in-law, apart from those yellow roses, was happy to have flowers around, as having Kaye happy was one of his raisons d’être.

606 roses 2One daughter also loves fresh flowers in the house, whatever is seasonal, and for some of us our memories will be of her Nairobi house filled with gorgeous roses.

Another daughter turns my thoughts to flower arrangements which she seems to accrue fairly often in her teaching role and orchids and stargazer lilies remind me of her wedding.

My husband remembers his grandmother in country Victoria, for her mulberry trees, and his other grandmother for the roses in the front garden.

My good friend Linda is a lover of all flowers but especially the fragrant ones: jasmine, gardenias and camellias. Another friend has frangipani in her Christmas displays. Thoughts of another friend bring to mind the hoya cutting we gave her, that has gone beserk and grown magnificently for her.

Lavender Bridestowe Tasmania Jan 09And my own favourites? What would others say? Perhaps lavender or grevilleas or frangipani …or just any flowers. Mr Cassmob says violets and red roses. My daughters might say the Stargazer lilies that we so often have in the house here. What I really dislike are arum lilies and gladioli which remind me of the many funerals I attended at my primary school. Recently I’ve been developing a passion for peonies which is thwarted because you just don’t see them here.

Even though I don’t know my distant ancestors, I’d associate George Kunkel with orange blossoms from his fruit orchard, and of course what else would Mary O’Brien evoke but shamrocks?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little geneameme with its evocation of sight, fragrance and those we’ve loved, now or in the distant past.

What it’s made me realise is how little I know about the flower preferences of some of my friends, and that not everyone has cut flowers in the house. I know some people prefer them to stay on the bushes (Robyn, are you reading?) but I like them in both places.

Do you have seasonal or travel floral memories?

A hibiscus for Kaye.

A hibiscus for Kaye.

Mine are: jacarandas flowering in Spring in the Great Court, or round the lake, as a prelude to exam time at The University of Queensland; a mass of pink Eucalyptus ptychocarpa (now apparently Corymbia ptychocarpa) blossoms that appear in Brisbane and Darwin at this time of year; the bright yellow pom-poms of Xanthostemon in Brisbane summers (spectacular last year); native violets blanketing the garden; masses of grevillea in spring, the cerise flowers of Melaleuca viridiflora smothering the tree in my parent’s backyard. The Cassia fistula’s magnificent yellow pendulous flowers in Brisbane and Port Moresby, and their hazardous seedpods; and the Golden Raintree (Koelreutia paniculata) on our Brisbane footpath. The arrival of the Christmas owls in the liquidamber in our Brisbane back yard remain a precious memory even though the tree-phobic neighbour has won out and had the tree removed. The poincianas bursting into red flower as Christmas approaches, the pinks of the frangipani at Christmas and the flush of white on the melaleucas, the waterlilies on the billabongs in Kakadu. The wonderful gardens we visit during each year’s Open Gardens scheme throughout the Dry Season.

Do you remember those Scratch’n’Sniff books which were around in the early 70s? That’s what we need for today’s post! If you haven’t already posted on this topic, why not join in? Please leave your link in the comments or use a #flowersgeneameme twitter tag.