Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 28 Far and away

4 x 7UP collageThis is the finale of my collage series and while it hasn’t been precisely 4x7UP it’s covered the key events of my early years. In this post, I’m once again going to indulge myself a little so I hope you’ll come along on the trip and see some of our travel from a child’s point of view. Pinching the inspiration from Kristin at Finding Eliza my plan is to interweave quotes from some travel notes and my letters back to my parents.

Finally the Darling Daughters (DDs) 1 and 2 were getting the opportunity they missed a few years earlier. We were off to Europe! At the same ages then as our grandchildren are now, I still wonder what we were thinking taking two small girls on a Grand Tour to Europe, England and Scotland with a “dessert” of Delhi, Kathmandu and Singapore. Obviously we had way more stamina in those far-off days of our youth, as did they!

Every girl needs a haircut big trip...Ms DD2's sawtoothed fringe was crafted for her by DD1, just days before we left.

Every girl needs a haircut before a big trip…Ms DD2′s sawtoothed fringe was crafted for her by DD1, just days before we left.

It’s greatly to the girls’ credit that they stood up to the demands of the trip so well…trains, buses, boats, huge ferries, small and large aircraft and multiple sights and cultures. For children who only travelled by car or plane, there were new experiences aplenty.  “The kids enjoyed the train to Florence” and DD2 apparently “LOVES buses!”

Travelling by train was fun for the kids whether in Europe or Scotland. They even survived overnight sleepers.

Travelling by train was fun for the kids whether in Europe or Scotland. They even survived overnight sleepers.

I wrote to my parents: “we are all well, having arrived safely unlike those poor souls in Tenerife” …this was a reference to a horrendous KLM-Pan Am on-tarmac crash with 583 casualties the day before we left Moresby.  We had “arrived at Moresby airport at 11.40am on Monday and arrived in Rome 27 hours later.” After a three hour stopover in Manila “we did not get off in Bangkok as the kids had not long gone to sleep…Likewise in Karachi.

Jet lag, little sleep, strange city: our first day in Rome. Thank heavens for gelati but even that didn't put a smile on anyone's face.

Jet lag, little sleep, strange city: our first day in Rome. Thank heavens for gelati but even that didn’t put a smile on anyone’s face.

Not surprisingly by the time we landed in Rome the kids (and we) were exhausted, and not impressed at having to be reclothed in warm attire (them). Miss DD1 who had been so peeved to be denied the earlier trip with us, decidedly announced “she did not like Rome and why had we come?! My sentiments exactly at that point!” Isn’t long-haul travel grand, not to mention jet lag. They were so tired they fell asleep on the airport bus and “missed the Colosseum and the man sitting in a truck full of artichokes“. “Rome station is an interesting place at 8am in the morning –you see all the latest fashions –high heeled boots, skin tight jeans and tartan skirts.  The Cass kids are IN already.” (Peter’s mother had bought the girls kilts while they were living in Scotland the year before.)

The "on trend" Cass girls in their tartan rubbing the pig's nose for luck.

The “on trend” Cass girls in their tartan rubbing the pig’s nose for luck.

However after a good sleep we all felt much more human and willing to be tourists. Staying near St Peter’s we “showed the kids the statues, Swiss Guards and the Pieta but I suspect what they’ll remember is the pigeons and horses!” Actually pigeons and coin throwing, initiated by the traditional Three Coins in a Fountain at the Trevi Fountain, which “took the kids fancy”. When Miss DD2 would get tired or grumpy we’d shoo her off to terrorise the nearest pigeons…there were always some.

This may be where DD1 acquired her love of Italian food and culture.

This may be where DD1 acquired her love of Italian food and culture.

Florence was a huge hit with the kids as they were spoiled by stall holders in the markets with little leather shoulder purses and per DD1’s letter home “Mummy bought us a dolly”, one each actually. Too true, but little did we suspect that DD2′s chosen baby doll, dressed in blue, was actually a fully-appurtenanced boy (it was Italy!). She (DD/Mum!) was a tad surprised but made a good recovery.

Watching the photo shoot wistfully.

Watching the photo shoot in St Mark’s Square wistfully. No shortage of pigeons here.

The kids were enthralled by Venice: DD1 jumping up and down with excitement at her first sighting of gondolas and the Grand Canal. But have you ever had to find public toilets for four-year olds in Italy, especially Venice? A nigh impossible task! As we travelled we selected charms for the girls to remember their grand adventure. They never wanted them on a charm bracelet but a couple have recently been added to a birthday gift for DD2.

Easter in Lucerne.

Easter in a snow-sprinkled Lucerne.

Lucerne was once again a thrill, it’s such a chocolate-box-picture kind of place, and it’s handy to be able to speak a little German. “It’s about a week earlier than when we were here last time and it has been snowing since about midnight. The roof tops have a covering of snow as do the trees and grass. It is all very picturesque if rather more winter than spring…It came down in big flakes mid-morning and we all went out for a look and a feel.” I wrote “we caught an overnight train from Salzburg to Zurich…to be sure of getting a room here for the Easter break”. We managed to “get a three-bed room plus kitchen and balcony overlooking Lucerne for $18 a day which is good for here” Of course being in the country of chocolate is the perfect place to be for Easter <smile>.

Don't they look just so cute?

Don’t they look just so cute? DD2 and DD1 in Interlaken.

We left Lucerne on Easter Monday, travelling via Interlaken. Despite telling the children repeatedly not to walk into the snow or their feet would be wet all night (another overnight train trip), quite naturally that was exactly what they did. This is one of our favourite photos of DDs1 and 2 from this holiday.

Over the sea to Skye and Peter in his new woolly coat.

Over the sea to Skye and Peter in his new woolly coat.

Much as we loved the Netherlands it caused us plenty of hassle when Peter’s shoulder bag was expertly “picked” on a near-empty tram in Amsterdam one Friday evening, removing his passport, rail passes and travellers cheques. Luckily we each carried our own travel documents, and I had the girls’, or we’d have been in a pickle.

In my aerogramme to my parents I said we “couldn’t file the report with the police as they were called out to a robbery, grabbed their guns and (leather) coats and took off! Quite impressive!…Whatever else you lose it is imperative never to lose a passport- you can’t move without it –literally or figuratively”. The consequence of this mini-drama was a trip to The Hague for a new passport and trawling all over London to get new visas to Nepal and a new entry permit for PNG. American Express was amazing, replacing their travellers cheques quickly. Our Australian bank much less so!

There's always time for sandcastles, even on a chilly day by the Dutch seaside.

There’s always time for sandcastles, even on a chilly day by the Dutch seaside.

We mostly avoided the churches and art galleries and looked for child-friendly outings. On this particular day at Madurodam, DD2 had been excelling herself wanting to throw coins into the myriad waterways: as I said, one of her travel addictions. If you look carefully at mother’s fingers you will see that her sentiments may not quite have matched her charming smile.

Madurodam, the Netherlands.

Madurodam, the Netherlands.

Kathmandu had long been on Mr Cassmob’s travel wish-list so when my friend and her husband relocated to Kathmandu and invited us to visit, the temptation was too much. The family story (totally true!) goes that after I’d chased DD2 who’d escaped outside the travel agent’s, I returned to hearing the agent recap our flight bookings, including a stop in Kathmandu! It would have been too stressful to be staying in hotels there so we were fortunate to be in our friends’ home. We were also pleased that the husband was in charge of airport electricals when we arrived in the midst of a major lightning storm. Kathmandu was an eye-opener for all of us, even after living in a developing country, but it was less discouraging than New Delhi which drove us all mad with the constant hassling. Still, despite the practicalities I rather regret we decided not to make the day trip to Agra. I suspect we never will see the Taj Mahal.

aerogramme 1977004

Our stay in Singapore ended up being rather longer than planned as the Australian airport baggage handlers were still on strike. One of the moments when you’re glad you have some credit cards but also a good chance to chill out by the pool. Finally the strike broke and we raced to the airport in company with some colleagues’ family, who handpassed the girls over people’s heads, such was the crush of humanity in the terminal that day. We also got a side trip to Brisbane, because we’d had to re-route our tickets if we were ever to get home to PNG.

We were on top of the world on our Everest sight-seeing flight.

We were on top of the world on our Everest sight-seeing flight.

The Qantas aircrew were as pleased to be finally going home as we all were and as soon as the doors were locked, announced free drinks all round. As the steward pulled the cap off Peter’s first XXXX beer (that’s its name) in a long time, the beer spewed everywhere having been languishing in a hot plane for over a week. Spilling all over the steward, he announced “wouldn’t that rip the fork out of your nightie”. We knew we were once again heading for home!

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis is the final 4x7UP post for the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 27 Christmases Past

4 x 7UP collageAs this series was all about my early years and those of our own family, I had to include some Christmas photos. I’m not going to write much about the different Christmases here because I’ve written extensively about them in the Advent Series a year ago.

So without further ado, here are some family snaps from that period, some not great photographically but good family memories. I’ve substituted the collage photo with a similar one with both girls in it.

Xmas delight

Xmas delight

Miss-Nearly-Three and the joy of seeing the Christmas tree in all its glory.

Peter Louisa Rach open presents Xmas 1973

This year the Xmas tree was a casuarina.

This year the Xmas tree was a casuarina.

The little one was very miserable with an ear ache for her first Christmas -we had to put them in the car and go for a drive to settle her down. Poor possum. If you’re wondering why all the long sleeves and jumpers, it’s because Goroka is at an altitude of 1600m or 5249ft, so it can be chilly overnight and in the morning.

Louisa and Rach Xmas pres 1977 or 76

And then we moved on to a gum tree (eucalyptus)

And then we moved on to a gum tree (eucalyptus)

Apparently by the end of our stay in Moresby we had bought the artificial tree which we kept for many years, but first there was the gum tree version.

The clowns were presents from my parents.

That same year Mr Cassmob excelled himself (with a little help from Mrs Claus) in the making of a dolls’ house. It was a good home for the Fisher Price dolls!

This is the house that Mr Cassmob (aka Santa) built.

This is the house that Mr Cassmob (aka Santa) built.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 26 Going Finish

4 x 7UP collageGoing Finish was a pivotal point in the life of those who had worked in the administration of Papua New Guinea. Some of the old-timers left prior to Independence, as did those who were convinced “we’d all be ruined”. Others remained for a number of years after Independence. Some left as their jobs became handed over to Papua New Guineans as they gained the skills and competencies for their newly formed country. Others left before then, knowing that otherwise they might never leave the ties were so strong.

Kaye and Les going finish

So the ritual of going finish was a significant cultural event. As nearly all those who left the country permanently departed through Port Moresby, where were living by then, we have many photos of groups of people going finish. This photo is an important one for our family, showing Mr Cassmob’s family leaving PNG after 23 years. Never ones to wear their emotions on their sleeves, they look quite calm but I imagine that inside they were feeling very sad.

One of our going finish parties.

One of our going finish parties.

A few years later we would join the trek to the south where we learned to be Australians in our own country all over again. Strangely we have no photos of our departure though it’s likely our friends have one, so I must put out a query on that. What we do have though is this picture of one of our many farewells, this one by our gang of Gerehuligans (Gerehu was the suburb where we lived). As we flew out of Jackson’s airport I know I had tears in my eyes, mitigated only by the champagne handed to us, and the camera lending some emotional distance.

 I’m going to leave you with a special poem written for Mr Cassmob’s parents when they left Milne Bay (but not going finish). Written by the local teachers it’s a very touching tribute.

Kaye and Les farewell Milne Bay

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 25 Behind Independence

4 x 7UP collageThe theme of this collage was the events and experiences of my first 28 years so how could I not include a photo which related to the Independence of Papua New Guinea. Regular readers will have read other posts on this topic here so for this story I needed a different angle. It occurred to me that while I’ve talked about the celebratory events, I haven’t actually talked about what it meant on a day to day level.

As with any celebration, there was a certain amount of waiting around on 15 Swept 1975. The high school kids were in colourful costumes and some were wearing traditional dress.

As with any celebration, there was a certain amount of waiting around on 15 Sept 1975. The high school kids were in colourful costumes and some were wearing traditional dress.

I asked Mr Cassmob for his thoughts on this last night and to an extent we were surprised at how little practical difference it made to our lives: we went to the same workplaces, we got our pay in the same bank account (even though the bank’s name had been rebadged), we did the same social things and lived in the same government house. For sure the structures and legislation underpinning all of this had changed, and there were more brown faces than white at the top level, but that didn’t bother us as it had been an emerging trend throughout out our then-short careers. We were neither senior enough to be displaced from our positions, nor were in positions which gave us any real power. We just kept on doing our jobs to the best of our ability.

Prince Charles arrives for the flag lowering ceremony.

Prince Charles arrives for the flag lowering ceremony.

There were some changes to consider at work: the need to consider the implications of a changed currency, from the dollar to the kina or vice versa, on the payment of school subsidies (Pauleen), or the practicalities of helping to establish the diplomatic training corps program at the Administrative College (Peter).

The Australian flag was lowered formally for the last time "with respect".

The Australian flag was lowered formally for the last time “with respect”.

After I moved from Education to Finance I suppose I was involved in minor administrative ways with the new bank Board structures as well as some organisation for visiting delegations from the International Monetary Fund which came to assess PNG’s financial status. We worked with local colleagues who were developing their skills and experience preparing for more senior roles within the public service over the years to come. Working in Finance was the only time I ever got to use the theory I’d learned in my economics degree.

The Police Band looked very smart in their sulus/lap laps with Bird of Paradise emblem.

The Police Band looked very smart in their sulus/lap laps with Bird of Paradise emblem. Independence Hill 16 September 1975.

Many Australians did leave after either self-government or Independence. Some of the more colonial types couldn’t handle the relinquishing of power to those whom they’d once had power over. Others, like Peter’s father, left because their jobs were superseded or had been localised. Over the years between self-government and Independence one of the employment trends was the departure of these Australians and the increased reliance on recruitment from the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the Philippines.

From the Prince to the Bishop and the warrior, everyone was in their finery.

From the Prince to the Bishop and the warrior, everyone was in their finery.

We were pleased to stay for another few years and in the end decided to relocate to Australia so we could re-start our careers there before time got away from us. We were also determined our children would not go to boarding school.  Although there were jobs for us in PNG and we loved being there, it was time to go despite our sadness. We had contemplated taking out citizenship but decided against it. Peter had already been challenged that he wasn’t a Papua New Guinean by some over-eager student, to which Peter simply replied “I’ve lived here longer than you’ve been alive”. And so the next stage of our lives began, back in our country of birth, but forever changed by our experiences in that amazing, challenging and exciting country, PNG.

Michael Somare arrives at the Catholic Cathedral near Ela Beach for the church service.

Michael Somare arrives at the Catholic Cathedral near Ela Beach for the church service.

It’s appropriate that the collage photo I chose for today was one of Michael Somare walking towards the Catholic Cathedral near Ela Beach for an Independence service. Lots of dignitaries were there from Prince Charles to Australia’s Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam and former Foreign Minister Andrew Peacock.  Apart from being the inaugural Prime Minister Somare was one of a select group of men who were chosen to fill the most senior roles in the country. Among the public service heading departments were Mekere Morauta (Finance), Charles Lepani, Rabbie Namaliu and Tony Siagaru, the commonly named “Gang of Four”, two of whom we worked for either closely or indirectly.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 24 Across the Ditch

4 x 7UP collageOne of Mr Cassmob’s employment conditions in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s was first-class (!) return airfares for his family every two years (initially) then every year, from place of employment in PNG to Melbourne, Australia. So if you’ve sometimes wondered which gold mine we’d discovered, you now know why we’ve travelled so much though not in first class I assure you.

Miss Two and her Riff Raff at a friend's house.

Miss Two and her Riff Raff at a friend’s house.

If you’re going to have to rent accommodation, hire a car and travel in Australia, you may as well translate that to airfares etc in another overseas destination.

This trip Across the Ditch to New Zealand was to be the kids’ first non-Australian international jaunt, a tiny compensation for missing out on Rome, Athens etc in the previous year. During the trip we were also able to meet up with some long-standing friends who’d reversed the trend across the Tasman. Along for the trip was Ms Two’s best friend, Riff Raff, which I’d made for her from batik fabric. In Auckland the girls met the real article for the first time – their eyes were wide, as they travelled from small girl height up the giraffe’s long legs and neck to his head and that long blue tongue. (After a conversation with my mother, it turns out it wasn’t the first time, as DD1 had been mesmerized when she had seen one the previous year while we were overseas).

Pauleen Louisa Rach Auckland Zoo 1975

The body language on DD2 as she draws away from the giraffe is noticeable.

Further south in Rotorua they would come face to face with another startling discovery, as like many tourists, we booked for a Maori evening show. Well it certainly was a cultural experience! Remember these were two little girls who were all too accustomed to seeing many hundreds of warriors armed with spears, arrows and axes, dancing in the Goroka Show. So when the Maoris burst onto the stage with a fully-fledged haka[i], tattooed faces, eyes bulging, arms flailing amidst much yelling, two small voices were added at full-screech to the noise. They just freaked out!! No longer were those warriors passive, they’d finally come to get them. Needless to say that was the end of the show for us!

The North Island also cost me part of my heirlooms as I lost the largest diamond from my grandmother’s engagement ring, probably in a gutter somewhere, as we searched for somewhere to stay (no, not in the gutter! rather just driving to find the right place).

High on a mountain Louisa Rach and Peter NZ 1975

Even simple things like slippery slides are special when you don't have them at home.

Even simple things like slippery slides are special when you don’t have them at home.

We loved the South Island because it was so very different from what we were used to, with its cold climate and snow. Everyone enjoyed the flight up to Fox Glacier and being able to see all that snow up-close. One night while watching the unaccustomed treat of television, we were shocked to see the Fall and evacuation of Saigon and all the surrounding panic. It was a confronting sight which bookmarked our own interest in the Vietnam war from our university days.

The kids travelled well without any hassles other than Miss Two’s need for her pliggles (aka dummies or pacifiers). Not only did she need one in her mouth, she had to have a spare in each hand. Have you ever had a midnight search for a missing dummy in an unfamiliar motel room (it was usually found behind the bed!) Tedious I can tell you! Perhaps that was the impetus for evil mother to wean her from it a month or so later.


One of the other joys the girls caught in New Zealand was chicken pox which they carried home carefully on the plane with them, revealing it only on our return home. Of course being sharing sorts of children they had to have it in sequence, rather than together, while their father was away for a couple of weeks’ work travel. Such are the joys of motherhood.

Appropriate for someone with two convicts in his family tree -not that we knew that then.

Appropriate for someone with two convicts in his family tree -not that we knew that then.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.


[i] Rugby Union fans are familiar with the All Blacks version which is every bit as formidable.  You can see one version here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdMCAV6Yd0Y. Traditionally a pre-battle challenge, it is also pertinent to my family history, as one of the Sandon Kent family died in the Maori wars.

For an amusing version check out the “flash” version in which the Qld copper joins in. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmSNN7vZt_o

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 23 Europe on $10 a day

4 x 7UP collageCan you believe that when we first went to Europe in the early 70s, the compulsory travel reading was Frommer’s Europe on $10 a Day (that’s per person). What we’d give to be able to do that now…I doubt even the most frugal backpacker could manage it! We’d decided to exchange our employment-funded return-to-Australia fares for what would likely be our first and last trip to Europe taking our 1 year old and our 3 year old. What were we thinking??!!

The markets in Patras: we all reckon some of Mr Cassmob's rellies were here.

The markets in Patras: we all reckon some of Mr Cassmob’s rellies were here.

We had all our flights booked when my parents offered to have the children to stay for the whole time. I’m not even going to tell you how long we deserted them for (hang our heads in shame), all I can say is that I was pleased to discover, years later, that my friend and former bridesmaid had left their kids behind for even longer. There’s always someone who’s worse than you <wink>. As it happened, Miss One came down with German measles soon after we left, so that alone made it a good decision to leave them behind. though who knows how many people she infected on the flight down (there was no immunisation at that point).

Having been teaching Miss Three that we were going to Athens and Rome, we now said “going to Grandma, going to the beach”. She was most definitely not amused and insisted “Go Rome, Go Athens!” She was so peeved with me, that she snubbed me entirely on the day I left but welcomed me with gusto when I returned, while Miss One sent me to Coventry.

Athens at dawn on the morning of our arrival.

Athens at dawn on the morning of our arrival with the guards tucked in their huts, until we got closer.

If I recollect correctly we had the pretty paltry sum of about $2000 in travellers’ cheques (and no credit cards) to get us through the long holiday. We were fine until we reached Switzerland where we nearly died of shock at the prices. We soon learnt not to book through the tourist bureau but find a telephone book and suss out the location of various pensions (aka B&Bs) via a walk-by, having left our luggage in lockers. Remember this was the pre-internet, pre-Trip Advisor, pre-Wotif days.

The unexpected age-old celebrations in Florence at Easter.

The unexpected age-old celebrations in Florence at Easter.

Our first stop was Athens at 4 in the morning – so from the Highlands of PNG to the ancient seat of civilisation, a different alphabet and an unknown language, soon after the university student uprisings and towards the end of the military junta’s coup.  We had sent the deposit for our first night’s accommodation by snail mail (the only option) and on arrival were relieved to discover they did indeed have our booking. Mr Cassmob remembers that our deposit came through a few days later, with a sliced-open and re-stuck-down envelope. We were also astonished that Greece was the only country where they knew where Papua New Guinea was, mainly because there were quite a few Greeks who’d travelled to Australia and their ships had gone via Port Moresby.

From there on, we hurtled from pillar to post in that quintessential image of a frenetic tourist rather than the “superior” traveller. Eurail was our best friend as we notched up the railway miles through ten countries visiting cathedrals and art galleries, watching cultural festivals (often by chance), and eating new and different food. We often saved money by sleeping on the train – no mean feat with passports and Eurail passes checked whenever you crossed a national border (no European Union then). And just for good measure, in between times I was receiving lecture notes by correspondence and writing assignments. We packed in anything and everything, either never expecting to be back, or knowing we’d have children in tow. Every once in a while we’d collapse for a few days in a place where we decided we were comfortable (and not going broke).

Salzburg markets-loved the straw arrangements and still have one as a Xmas decoration.

Salzburg markets-loved the straw arrangements and still have one as a Xmas decoration.

It was the most amazing experience, and as you will have gathered previously, not at all our final excursion to Europe, rather the start of a life-long addiction for travel…helped in no small measure by the increasing accessibility of long-distance travel and the decreasing cost. Prior to the 70s, travelling by boat to Europe from Australia was more the norm. Bearing in mind it took about 30 hours to fly to Europe with stops ex Moresby via Manila, Bangkok, Karachi, Teheran, Rome. There was no in-flight entertainment at all other than airline supplied magazines and papers, plus your own books. There were no iPads or iPods. Meal times were rigid and unable to be adjusted –you ate or you starved. You slept when you could and you got off at the transit stops. Smoking was also allowed throughout the aircraft which was less of a bother than one might assume given that everywhere you went, this was the case.

At the top of Mt Pilatus near Lucerne our waiter was another Aussie. They've everywhere!

Mr Cassmob at the top of Mt Pilatus near Lucerne. Our waiter in the coffee shop on Pilatus was another Aussie (no, it wasn’t Mr Cassmob).

From a family history point of view (in which I had no interest in those far-off days), I wrote to my parents saying I didn’t like Austria but did like Germany (Bavaria in particular), so assuming perhaps my German name originated there (correct). Funny how life turns out isn’t it? There’s a good chance that along the way we may have passed through or near Dorfprozelten but little did I know. Now the main purpose of our travel is often family history sleuthing.

These images are scanned from photos and have lost colour, so I can see I’m going to have to go back to the slides and scan them for better clarity…another task for the “to do” list.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challenge

This post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 22 Let’s go picnicing

4 x 7UP collageMuch as we love the little snippets of information about our ancestors, we still tend to keep focusing on the “big ticket” items in our own lives. My photo today is about the ordinary moments, the ones we often forget to capture. Over the years picnics have been big in our family: at the beach, in the hills, in the bush, overseas, with others, on our own. I’m not going to write much about each because there’s no need. So let’s go picnicking…as much a challenge in the snowy north at the moment as it is Down Under with 35C heat.

Peter and DD1 and 2

Peter and DD1 and 2

This may have been our classiest picnic -across from Buckhingham Palace on our 1977 trip. Mr Cassmob and our two darling daughters (henceforth DD1 and 2).

Peter and DD1 and 2 at Ela Beach.

Peter and DD1 and 2 at Ela Beach.

How better to celebrate our relocation from the Highlands to the coast than a picnic at Ela Beach 1974.

Peter Heidelberg 1974

Mr Cassmob, roast chicken and a wine in the grounds of Heidelberg Castle.Variarata picnic view

(Above) Varirata National Park (we used to call it Variarata) outside Port Moresby, up in the hills near Sogeri, was a family favourite for picnics and BBQs. Boxing Day, visitors, any day. Often a group of us would go up travelling in convoy.

(Below) Most times we visited we took photos from the lookout which had a lovely view down towards Moresby and out to the sea -not that you’d know it from this picture. Unfortunately the good ones all have lots of still-living people in them.

Cass family edited 1975 Variarata

DD1 photographs her Dad while Mum photographs both!

DD1 photographs her Dad while Mum photographs both!

For some reason we quite liked a picnic BBQ beside Obi Obi creek near Nambour (this is a later photo).

Cass families picnic Mary Cairncross Park

A rare photo of a picnic with Peter’s parents at Mary Cairncross Park near Nambour (his Mum didn’t do picnics).  His father obviously took the photo. Another from beyond the 28 year span.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 21 Family Christenings

4 x 7UP collageIt will come as no surprise after my Day 5 Collage post, that our children were all christened.  Eldest daughter was baptised in my home parish in Brisbane shortly before we returned to Alotau a few weeks after her birth. My paternal grandmother was still alive, and I feel there should be a photo of the two of them together, even though she didn’t come to the church. If it exists, where is it, that is the question?!

Our children's christening frock.

Our children’s christening frock.

Her christening frock was one of the earliest creations on my new Bernina. The beautiful hand smocking was done by my mother and I have the notion that I did the crochet despite my lack of expertise. I should check to see if Mum can remember, perhaps she did it.. I checked with her today and she’s not sure either. I’m thinking now it’s more likely to have been her work. She also had a special crocheted coat, bonnet and bootees outfit that I think my parents bought her for the occasion. Our other daughters wore the christening robe also in their turn, one in Goroka and one in Brisbane.

Daughter 2's christening at home in West Goroka.

Daughter 2′s christening at home in West Goroka.

I just had to include this photo of Daughter #2’s christening, mainly for the joy of knowing how much this photo stirs them up! So much paisley in evidence: his shirt, his tie, and my dress. I’m surprised that I hadn’t also made Miss 2 a paisley outfit for good measure <smile>. This christening was in our home rather than the local parish church, from memory because we wanted a priest, who was a good friend, to do the ceremony. It was also very ecumenical as many of the attendees were non-Catholics.

My christening dress. What was my thing with handbags, at this age!

My christening dress. What was my thing with handbags, at this age!

Among my baby book photo is this one of me wearing my own christening dress. It certainly wasn’t taken when I was christened so it must have been a good deal larger than necessary when I first wore it. I also have this frock in my possession even though it’s quite fragile being made of a type of chiffon.  Mum tells me my Aunty Mary (whom you met last week) made this dress for me, with specially covered seams to meet my grandmother’s critical professional dressmaking standards.

As far as I know we have no photos of Mr Cassmob’s christening or any of the earlier generations.

I would regard both these christening frocks, and the bonnets, as family heirlooms which I hope will be treasured whether or not they’re ever worn again.

A trio of hand-crafted baby bonnets.

A trio of hand-crafted baby bonnets.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 20 Papua New Guinea

4 x 7UP collage

Imagine if you will a country with spectacular, awe-inspiring scenery from fierce mountain ranges clothed in almost impenetrable jungle to deep aquamarine seas with an abundance of tropical fish.

Highlands children on a pit-pit fence near Lufa, Eastern Highlands, PNG © P Cass 1972

Highlands children on a pit-pit fence near Lufa, Eastern Highlands, PNG © P Cass 1972

Imagine a country with hundreds of tribal groups, languages and specific cultures. Imagine the potential for clashes between those tribal groups, the payback[i] and potential for inter-clan fighting, and the translation of traditional sorcery into the recent horrors of witch-burning.

The Asaro Mudmen at the Goroka Show. © Pauleen Cass 1972

The Asaro Mudmen at the Goroka Show. © Pauleen Cass 1972

Imagine the variety of costumes and sounds when thousands of warriors come together from diverse places for a sing-sing, or music and dance. Where even other clans and tribal groups look on astonished at what they’re seeing. This can either be in a traditional environment or replicated from traditional practices into a form of performance for visitors eg the Goroka Show or the Kenu and Kundu Festival which we recently visited.

Wahgi warriors at the Goroka Show © P Cass 1972

Wahgi warriors at the Goroka Show © P Cass 1972

I think this was 1973. The showground was a tad muddy, as you can see. © Pauleen Cass 1972

I think this was 1973. The showground was a tad muddy, as you can see. © Pauleen Cass 1972

This truly unique place is Papua New Guinea, venue of A Million Different Journeys. When I moved there only weeks after my marriage it was still the Territory of Papua New Guinea, under the jurisdiction and administration of the Australian government.

What an amazing experience, so incredibly different from suburban Australia, and where sights and sounds are like nothing ever before experienced. For close to a decade, this country was home. For my husband it will always be home as apart from his earliest years, and school absences, this was his place which very much shaped who he is and how he sees the world.

Memories of coastal villages, mountains and mountain valleys and passes, semi-naked people dressed in elaborate costumes. The unique smell of pig-grease spread on the skin to keep out the cold, blended with smoke from a chimney-less hut. Women loaded down with kau-kau[ii] in their bilums[iii]. The blood-red stain of buai spit on the ground. The sounds of the kundu and the ululation of chanting during a sing-sing.

Milne Bay women at the 2012 Kenu and Kundu festival. © Pauleen Cass 2012

Milne Bay women at the 2012 Kenu and Kundu festival. © Pauleen Cass 2012

I feel very privileged to have lived in PNG and come to love it. In my heart it’s like a good friend who I’ve lost contact with, and from whom I’ve grown apart, but is treasured for how it shaped my view of the world, and myself, turning me into a very different person from the one I’d have been if I had stayed in Australia. I’m privileged too that it’s enabled me to understand my husband’s formative years.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge


[i] The practice of exacting punishment from another person or clan, for injury to the pigs or people of another clan or village.  Punishment may be exacted by payment of fines or by physical violence.

[ii] Kau-kau is the Tok Pisin name for sweet potato.

[iii] A bilum is a string bag worn by women with the strap over the head, and carrying the load (or the baby) leaning against their back.

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 19 Ode to a Friend

4 x 7UP collageToday I want to introduce you to one of my oldest friends, one whose permission I don’t need before we “go public”. Ms Bernina first came into my life when I was seven months pregnant with my first child. We’ve been mates ever since, but like all friends there are days when we have a falling out because things aren’t working well between us. However over the years we’ve shared so many experiences. She’s been such a robust friend, notching up many air miles travelling between Papua New Guinea and Australia, and then coming on a road trip with us to Darwin.

Poor Ms Bernina, she's looking a bit tired and needed some flowers to cheer her up.

Poor Ms Bernina, she’s looking a bit tired and needed some flowers to cheer her up.

Together we’ve shared memorable moments like christenings, balls, First Communion, school formals, Christmas gifts and ice skating as well as those day-to-day moments like school uniforms, travel outfits, work clothes or new curtains each time we’ve made a new home. So many fabrics have passed under Ms Bernina’s dainty feet: chiffon, velvet, lycra, brocades, knits and cottons in geometric patterns, stripes, flowers, prints, polka dots and paisley. Together we favoured patterns made by Vogue –they may have looked complicated but in a different version of “read the *** manual” were just fine so long as you followed the steps. Butterick and Simplicity also got an occasional workout but Burda wasn’t a favourite.

Ms Bernina is getting older now and after a lifetime spent in humid climates, her joints don’t always work as well as they could, especially if they’re not given a regular spa bath of oil. Many months go past when she’s superseded by that Johnny-come-lately laptop, but there’s life in her yet.Pauleen Cass Lees wedding Mt Hagen

The connection to today’s collage photo is fairly obvious I think. Ms Bernina made this outfit for me when I was matron-of-honour to my sister-in-law. Around my neck I have a simple lilac velvet ribbon on which was a pretty cameo in lilac and green with a  marcasite surround, a gift from my Aunty Emily whom you’ve already met.

In the best traditions of family dressmaking, the bride’s lovely frock was made by her mother and she looked gorgeous. It was quite the event in Mt Hagen, one of PNG’s tea-growing areas, as it was held on the tea plantation where the groom worked. The reception was at the Club and the guests were all “ex-India” don’cha know, “not a single Singalese” (property) among them! I smiled and helped serve the canapés…there were benefits to all those school lessons in charm and deportment.

Thanks for always being a reliable friend my dear Bernina…I hope we have a few years friendship left in us yet.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.