Monday, April 26, 2010


I don't remember the piano.

Our old house is now up for let again. (Wonder if the landlord's coughed up for the plaster and other repairs - as well as hiking the rent?)

Interestingly, the house has been dressed for the photos with a load of furniture and a lot of attention to detail (glasses in the rack, a wind-chime in the garden).

But I'm sure we didn't have a piano!

PS: Thanks to some careful examination of these photos by Bev, she realised that the pictures date to before we moved in - i.e. the set taken around 2005...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Anzac Day 2010

Last year's photos are here. This year's contribution is some (I hope) thought provoking quotes.
Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, and is commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all those who died and served in military operations for their countries. Anzac Day is also observed in the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and Tonga.

It was lost on the night of bombardment before the first landing, lost in the first hour on the beach, lost on each of the two hundred and ninety-eight days that followed, lost in the planning at Whitehall, lost in the choice of the deranged Ian Hamilton, lost in the luck of getting the genius Ataturk as our principal foe.
Bob Ellis

Rear Admiral Steve Gilmore, the commander of the Australian naval fleet told the thousands gathered at central Sydney's Cenotaph for Sunday's Anzac Day dawn service that Australia's national identity was established at Gallipoli.

Rear Admiral Gilmore said the nation enjoys the freedoms it does thanks to the 1.8 million Australians who've served in military campaigns over the past 95 years.

Rear Admiral Gilmore said 102,000 Australian servicemen and servicewomen had made the ultimate sacrifice, and he asked that their contribution be remembered on this day.

"Because of Gallipoli our national identity was firmly established," he said, referring to Australia's best known military campaign.

Yahoo7 News

And many of us believed it, the audacious, denialist spin that a battle ill lost from which no good came was worth being in because it 'tested our mettle' and 'showed what game young men can do'.

Paul Keating, launching Graham Freudenberg's Churchill and Australia said Australia didn't have to prove anything. It already had the highest standard of living in the world, along with female suffrage, pensions, exemplary health care, a literate working class, good writers, athletes, musicians, painters, cartoonists. What was there to prove? That we could perish bravely in war, that great game of drongos?

'I have never gone to Gallipoli,' Keating said, 'and I never will. Kokoda is more my speed. There we fought, and won, a long battle that made a difference to our nation's future. That saved us from something, as Gallipoli never did.'
Bob Ellis, ABC.

War historian and author Roland Perry told the service that despite the horrific losses of thousands of young diggers, Australia had had a huge impact on the world stage during World War I.

‘‘The Turks had ruled the Middle East for 400 years but the Anzacs did more than any other force to change the map of the Middle East roughly to where it is today,’’ he said.

‘‘In the four years... Australia had a remarkable impact on the world stage never to be repeated.

‘‘But we are here today to remember the men and women of Australia and New Zealand who sacrificed and served in all wars, not just the Great War.’’

AAP, The Age.

What the Australians won at Gallipoli was huge respect, including from their enemy. It really is time we started making clear to young Australians that the Anzacs didn't die protecting Australia from being invaded. Rather, we were invading a country on the other side of the world - to wit, Turkey - with whom we had no difference as a people outside the larger politics of the day.

Surely it is time we owed Turkey, and Turkish Australians, that respect. Look at the respect Turkey shows our dead.

I ask this question most seriously. Does any country in the world - other than Turkey - permit a people who tried to invade it to commemorate the fact of that attempted invasion on their shores each year? I know of not a single one. Imagine if the descendants of the Japanese pilots who bombed Darwin held an emotional service beneath the Japanese flag on the shores of Darwin Harbour each year.

Martin Flanagan, The Age.

Organisers were hoping for a record 40,000 people at the Shrine of Remembrance, ensuring Melbourne’s dawn service remains as powerful as ever - 95 years since Aussie diggers landed at Gallipoli.
AAP, The Age

Trooper Mark Donaldson, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for services in Afghanistan, said it was vital young people take part in Anzac Day.

"You have to keep it alive because if you don't pass it down and make sure they understand what it's about then it's going to be forgotten about," Trooper Donaldson told reporters in Sydney following the march.

Yahoo 7 News.

In 1983, when his yacht, Australia 2, won the America's Cup, owner Alan Bond acknowledged that at one stage his crew had been losing but added "it was just like Gallipoli, and we won that one".

It would be interesting to know exactly how that comment was received in lounge rooms across Australia. Did it feel "right" to most who heard it? My guess is that it did.

Gallipoli was a military disaster. We should note that in justice to the young men who died there. Do we owe them less than we owe those who die in bushfires like Black Saturday? We should also note it in justice to future generations. The voices that urged Australia into the invasion of Iraq were of the same character as those that propelled Australia to Gallipoli in 1914.

Martin Flanagan, The Age.

Many young families, including bleary-eyed children, came to the service. Lynda Brown said her seven-year-old son Callum had an obsession with war history.

‘‘I have been here before and I thought it was a good for him to come along and hopefully get rid of the romanticism of war and hear some stories and see that some people are upset,’’ she said.

AAP, The Age

Propaganda was involved in shaping the popular view of Gallipoli from the start. Take the case of John Simpson Kirkpatrick, the man with the donkey. Within six weeks of his death, he had been conscripted into the propaganda war, a newspaper report describing him as ''a six-foot Australian'' with ''a woman's hands'' who said in a British-Australian accent, ''I'll take this fellow next.''

Simmo was a five-foot-eight Geordie with a stoker's hands who spoke in dialect and had fierce Labor politics. His first biographer, a fan of Churchill and acquaintance of Sir Robert Menzies, stripped him of his politics. There was no mention of boozing or fighting. The real Simmo was left in a grave at Gallipoli.

Martin Flanagan, The Age.

Too many of us have felt the effects, national and personal, of our nation's willingness to participate in foreign wars - because, as Australians, we bizarrely saw ourselves as foreign to our own homeland.

It is often claimed that our soldiers died for ''the freedom we enjoy today''. But to a sovereign nation, being truly free means being independent. Even as our monuments, ceremonies and memories of war endure, Australia is surely now mature enough to learn the lessons of its history and face the hard truths behind its myths.

Andrew Herrick, The Age

The Gallipoli peninsula and its pocket-handkerchief of a weatherworn battlefield is the site of a defeat for Australian and New Zealand soldiers (not to mention the British, the French, the Senegalese, the Indians and others from a lost empire), and a defeat that occurred long before any of us who might make the trip now were born.
The band of would-be gypsies, each of them Australian, made it to the Anzac commemorative site well before dawn, found a tiny spot on the lawn, laid out their Turkish carpet and hunkered down among thousands of other travellers for the cold wait, a fingernail moon eventually sliding over the crags and ridges, the Aegean Sea silvering.
No other people travel in such great numbers over such distances to such a curious destination.
Tony Wright, The Age.

It was Ataturk who declared to the mothers of Australia that their sons lay in friendly soil. A group of about 80 Turkish Australians march each year in Melbourne on Anzac Day. Anzac Day would not be the same without them.
Martin Flanagan, The Age.

Further thoughtful, rather than knee-jerk articles (on the dysfunctional relations between Australian politicians and servicemen and women) here, and on Australian's complex and conflicted relationship with the ease with which the country has gone to war and the remarkable limits of the real participation here insipred by a book critical of the Anzac legend.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

East - West II

East. Early morning, mist, frost, horizon, trees.

West. Early evening, sun, horizon, trees.

(For Sahlah again)


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Goldfields Two

First week in the new house

Well, almost. It’s six days tomorrow and it’s beginning to feel like home. Tonight the rain patters on the roof, there’s a fire burning cheerfully in front of me, and Bach is on the stereo. James is reading and the dog has his nose tucked under his tail. All is well.

We’ve had a busy couple of days. Jo and Paul went back to the city on the weekend. They’ve found a shared house for the next six months while they are temping and enjoying Melbourne awhile. (In case you don’t know them, Jo is James’ step-sister and Paul is her partner. They’ve been travelling the world for seven months and landed on our doorstep three weeks ago, broke, hungry and supremely, supremely helpful. They packed zillions of boxes, washed the dishes and have been wonderful company. They are welcome back any time!)

So, the old house is all clean and empty. We scrubbed and scrubbed yesterday and we’re back to finish up and hand in the keys tomorrow. Bittersweet to stroll down the street – we’ve been so happy there in the pretty neighbourhood with all our Italian neighbours. But it’s changing, and the Italians are leaving as the cars get newer and the talk is all investments and rates, not Buon giorno, how are you and do you fancy trading some lemons for your beautiful tomatoes? Time to leave and let it be.

Out here, we already feel like we’ve met half the neighbourhood. Somehow we forgot that we might be a topic of interest, and so it came as a surprise when people dropped in to say hi (and check us out). We’ve had visitors every day we’ve been here – sometimes several. And of course, Bob, who was visiting Kathy and Denis, the landlords, and wanted to see inside his old home.

Today we went to Castlemaine, one of the bigger towns in central Victoria. A lovely goldfields-era town, it was once the centre of extensive diggings that brought it a period of incredible prosperity. A bustling country town with some beautiful mid-18th century buildings and many little brick and stone miners’ cottages, it has real character. The leaves are starting to turn in a few small patches and it had the lovely feeling of Sackville in fall or a small country town somewhere in rural Ontario or New England. We shopped hard: a fire poker and a big garden fork, a good stiff doormat for the mud and grass, and hunted in vain for a spider catcher. We’re going to need it. Sitting at the table in the amazing cafĂ© with the to-die-for lemon tart, we astounded the waitress by brandishing our garden fork when the tart was brought to our table. ‘You’ll need a bigger tart!’ she laughed.

Speaking of good, I unpacked my cookbooks and remembered that I’m signed up for an Italian autumn cooking class in a couple of weeks. I was reading a long description of how to make cheese, and ricotta, and optimum coagulating temperatures for your sixty litres of fresh unpasteurised milk….

… I wonder how James would feel about getting a cow?

Just kidding! We’ll enjoy the bats and the birds, the ASTONISHING stick insect that took up residence inside the lean-to during last night’s rain storm (17mm in 24 hours). I’ve got a list of the local farmers’ markets, plans for the garden, and now, a garden fork for my tart, or my potatoes, whichever comes along first.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Goldfields Plan in Action

We've been away for a couple of weeks, and the reason is... we've moved to the country!

Day 1 – moving day

It’s an empty white cube of a house. Jo’s up the ladder scrubbing the top of the kitchen walls, and I’m dusting soot and tiny spiders from around the cast-iron fire.

We’ve been cleaning for two hours solid -- we could make a cup of coffee and take that break we’ve been talking about, but although I brought the coffee, sugar and two mugs from the old house, I forgot to bring the kettle. And the gas bottles seem to have run out. Ten minutes later, our landlady pops her head around the door: she’s brought her kettle, a jug of milk, a mug for herself with a teabag already in it. She dials the local bottle gas supplier and hands me the phone ‘Suck up to the gas lady,’ she says, ‘and you might have gas in time for tea.’

We sit on the steps in the empty house in the sun and chat. It used to be a farmhouse. Kathy made those stained glass windows that Jo has been buffing to a shine, emerging from cobwebs and dust to let in fractured colourful sunlight. The walls were turquoise and every other colour. We knew that; we’d found scraps of turquoise, grass-green and bright blue where the creamy paint has chipped in places.

Four hours later, or is it five? – the movers have been and gone, rolling box after box into the house, straight down a ramp through the French doors. The house has gone from an empty container to a fortress of boxes. The teenagers from the big house are curious, so they express it in the way of fifteen-year old boys, by driving round and round on their motor cross bikes, staring (there are four teenage boys at the farm this weekend, thankfully only one of them lives here and the rest are cousins from Queensland). Much showing off of the hundred-dollar paddock bomb, a broke-down Toyota that roars and smokes past the house full of curious teenage pimply faces, zig-zags erratically away across the fields and stops under a far-off tree, no doubt for a quiet smoke out of the sight of Mom.

There’s packing paper everywhere. The dog is restless, but the sofas are in place so it’s starting to look like a home. There are beds in the front rooms – you can barely see one of them over the stack of boxes, but it’s there, so tired backs and sore arms will have a place to sleep. The fridge is humming and burping gently to itself in the corner, and the gas man shows up in his ute with a bulldog, greeted with much interest by Toby (met with aloof interest by the bulldog, ‘I’m sitting in the front seat of the ute, I’m a cool cruising bulldog.’) Gas bottle in place, I’ve had a lesson in how to light the (curses, curses) water heater, and I’m off. Back to the city to pick up the boys, James and Paul, who have been supervising the outward part of the move and starting to clean the old house.

It’s 9PM before we’ve got bowls of pasta and we’re all headed straight to bed. End of moving day, and we’re cooking with gas.

Day 2 in the new house

I’m glad I said last night, ‘Everyone’s sleeping for as long as they want tomorrow’ because today it’s painfully evident that’s exactly what we need. Maybe two days of sleeping. Searing pain in the shoulders, aching back, sore arms – all that leaping up and down ladders and racing to scrub down every wall before the movers arrived with the tall bookshelves has left its mark. But we have coffee and hot tea, toast-but-no-butter or a scrap of shared-out muesli. We bless the cranky water heater that was so cursed yesterday, as the shower revives us somewhat and someone unpacked clean towels. Hot tea and clean towels: that’s civilisation.

Paper continues to fly. It’s a public holiday and the only place we could buy food was the gas station. Have you ever tried to feed two hungry vegetarians and a growling carnivore on gas station provisions? I have, and the answer is risotto with dried mushrooms and wine (thank God I brought lots of beer and some wine), wrinkly apples and some dried fruit baked long and slow in the oven Lots of biscuits, and tea.

Sometime this afternoon, the teenagers were given a stern talking-to by dads, possibly moms too, so they take themselves off to run motocross races up and down the airstrip half a kilometre away in the dark. Everyone’s happy but as the wind howls around the house and the motocross roaring goes on into the night, I just can’t get warm at all, the fire smokes and everyone’s a little cross. James goes to bed with a headache. I go to bed later and lie looking into the pitch-black country darkness, thankfully now silent, and think, ‘Oh my goodness, what have we done?’

Day 3 in the new house

Today we met Bob. He was born in the house 85 years ago, he says, jerking a thumb towards the front room. ‘There were no hospitals back then.’ He and Gladys lived here until seven years ago, when they sold the farm to Kathy and Denis. He’s little and wiry and really nice: now I know why the house feels so pleasant. Nice people have lived here for a long, long time. Maybe ever since go.

We’re unloading boxes at a rate of knots and finding favourite pictures. Denis is down the back of the cast-iron stove – all we can see are his knees and feet sticking up and wiggling a bit. We don’t know how he got there and somehow he gets out on his own, too. (We did offer to pull.) He’s been cleaning and checking the motor on the blower under the stove – apparently it’s got an in-built fan to force the hot air around the house. We’re going to need it. About seventy-two people have told me, some of them several times, it gets cold around here in winter.

I woke up in the morning to glimmering sunshine on the mist, bird song and laughing kookaburras, and the worries of last night were gone. About 8AM and a little figure in white shorts and t-shirt happens to go ‘jogging’ past the back door. She heads into the old barn, hangs out for a minute (I think I see little eyes peering at me through the slats of the barn, as I’m making coffee in the kitchen), then she casually ‘jogs’ back the other way. This is Millie. She’s six and mad about dogs. I go out with Toby and it’s all good, apart from some initial nerves on the part of the young lady. Toby chases balls and runs into the dam for a swim, in fact, performs just as a wonderful treat new dog ought to, and prances around telling Millie she is great. Both of them are covered in mud but very happy as we head back to the big house, discussing things as we go. How old is he? Does he have brothers and sisters? Can he fetch other things apart from balls? If I threw the ball into the dam would be swim to get it? Um, I forgot his name. What’s his name? Can he do tricks? Basking in the glow of being the first of all the cousins to meet the new dog, she goes in to tell the others and Toby streaks straight in to the kitchen, only to get evicted out the patio doors. Oops, maybe that wasn’t politic. We’ll run back to the cottage, shall we?

Millie is around later, and I think we’ll see a lot of her. She’s sitting on our sofa, swinging her feet and asking more questions. When Denis, her Dad, comes round to do the fire, he says he might have to get her a dog of her own just to keep her out of our hair. Could be right, there. When I ask her what sort of dog she wants, she umms for a moment, and then says ‘One like this one.’ Toby’s got a new admirer.

Day 4 in the new house

I’m up early, the clocks went back but it still feels like 7:10 so I’m up. Opening the curtains, there’s a grey flash of movement out there in the murky pre-dawn. Kangaroos! Up and down the paddock next door, maybe startled by the movement of the white curtains at the house, maybe just doing their own thing. They’re like sloppy streaks of dark grey in the grey field, but it’s exciting to know they are there.

Toby and I stomp around in the wet grass taking photos as the sun lifts over the hill. There’s mist over the fields again and the clouds roll back. It’s cool but so beautiful. We collect kindling and remember why we don’t leave the laundry hanging out overnight. All the leaves in the paddock (I’m learning to call it all paddock, not lawn) are thickly covered with dew. Coffee goes down easily and it’s the beginning of day four.