Monday, 27 April 2015

A rose by any other name

Wandering through my favourite Fitzroy Gardens recently we cut across the lawn (glad we don't live in France where there always seem to be 'don't walk on the grass' signs!) I spotted a number of gorgeous rosettes on the ground under an enormous pine tree.  
My small collection of rosettes

Now I distinctly remember my mother gathering these and putting them in a bowl or adding a wire stem and adding them to an 'arrangement'. They always looked rather charming in an old fashioned way even if they were competing with her wonderful arrangements of roses picked freshly - and often - from our rose gardens. The house was always in full bloom and yet she still managed to collect the odd rosettes. I think she called them cedar wood roses. 
A 'spray' of cedar roses

I went to my friend Mr Google to discover more about them and up they popped. They're called cedar wood rose flowers and they come from the Deodar or Himalayan Cedar which is an ever-green tree, growing to 50 m tall and 5 m to 10 m in circumference. (not in my backyard thanks!)

The magnificent Deodar Cedar
A detail of the cedar cone - you can see the cedar rose forming
Whilst gathering my 'small collection' I was surprised to find that my friend hadn't seen them before. The internet is awash with websites selling them - mainly in the States. I must get back to the Deodar and see if I can make a small fortune on line as well!
I'll need to get gathering to make a posy!
Have you seen them before? Have you collected them? Do you want to buy some!!! Of course you can beat me to it by scrounging around under the cedar tree in Melbourne's Fitzroy Gardens.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Lest we forget - and yet we do

I don't know if it is only me but we have been bombarded (probably not a good word to use!) with scenes of The Great War, TV and movies of The Great War, in fact everything to do with The Great War (including some tasteless advertisements) in order to 'cash in' on the 100th Anniversary of the Anzacs. And we haven't even arrived at Anzac Day on the 25th of this month! 
What is reality?

To be honest - I am 'over it'. And yet here I am writing about it. So I am also 'getting in on The Great War act'. Sorry. What a pity. The last few years there has been enormous interest that has seen us remember those young men who fought and died for freedom, with so many not coming home and decimating our young population in this still young country. Many died at the hands of those who ruled the Empire - who used our soldiers as fodder for the enemy. I find it all sickening. Yes, I think it is important that we remember them but not in the way they are now presented. It's a bit like a Hollywood movie.
The Avenue of Remembrance tapestry - an extraordinary work in progress

Last week I popped in to see the most recent commemorative tapestry to be created at the marvellous Tapestry Workshop (see the link here). The 3.3m by 2.8m tapestry took over 2380 hours to complete. It was to have been 'available' to see on the day I visited but the weavers were still busy completing it and there was little to show (most of it was rolled up as they reached the end). So I went on line to try and see it in its finished glory (another war word!) Unfortunately I just couldn't find the finished work anywhere on line. It was designed by the artist Imants Tillers and the Avenue of Rememberence is a wonderful piece which will find a home at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra (see the link here). 
Imants Tillers, Avenue of Remembrance, 2014, oil on board, 3.27 x 2.83m, photo courtesy of the artist
I was interested to read that Tillers' was inspired by The Gallipoli letter (read it here), an 8000 word document written by war correspondent and later media baron, Keith Murdoch (father of Rupert) to Prime Minister Andrew Fisher in 1915 during the early part of World War 1. It is considered to be one of the National Library’s most important objects and the content of the letter is regarded as having helped bring an end to the Gallipoli campaign. In this letter Murdoch laments, “how young Australians, knowing that they would probably die were flocking to fight on Gallipoli’s “sacred soil’”.

As the Tapestry Workshop statement reads "Tillers' poetic landscape painting is reminiscent of the wartime roads on the Western Front and the many ‘avenues of remembrance’ planted in memorial to the First World War around Australia.  Layered over the top are words from the Gallipoli letter and a selection of names of the many places where Australians fought and were buried during the war.
My ‘Avenue of Remembrance’ is, I hope, a way or means to remember not only those young men who died but also the profound loss and grief experienced by their mothers, their fathers, their brothers and sisters. By their friends, by their communities. By our nation.’

The "Ode of Remembrance" was written by Laurence Binyon (I never knew that) and was taken from his poem, "For the Fallen" and first published in September 1914.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

It seems that nothing has changed and we haven't learnt a thing. All the time we are glorifying our own soldiers we are puzzled by the pull of young men to join up with our current ISIS enemy. As the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Susan Falidi reminds us:

When the enemy has no face, society will invent one.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The Hottie - winter's a'comin!

I have a friend who always travels with her 'hottie (hot water bottle). I think it's a comfort to her and I have begun to follow her 'habit'. Neither of us have a 'hubby' to 'use' instead - and we call them our rubber hubbies! It got me thinking about the ubiquitous hottie versus the electric blanket. Except for the odd 'leak' from an old hottie (as happened recently when a friend lent me her long departed mothers hottie!), they are probably safer than an electric blanket - and won't burn the house down if they malfunction. They are transportable and they take me back to my childhood. I guess it's a bit like cuddling a dolly or a teddy bear!

And then there are the usual hottie covers that one can knit, or as my friend does - she makes them out of the sleeve of an old cashmere jumper (a new cover/sleeve every year!!).  Years ago in Aspen I picked up one that is a sheep. I think it's rather fun. 
The Aspen Sheep cover! Baa!
One of my guests took my last hottie and I needed to buy another. It was on my supermarket shopping list so I headed to where I thought a hottie would be located. I searched the toothpaste, body creams, baby formula, makeup area to no avail. Then I searched the bedroom linen, coathanger, shoe insert and other oddes and ends area - again to no avail. So off I went to the checkout chick to ascertain where they were located. "Yes, we do sell them, try the" toothpaste, body cream, baby formula area (well not those words but..). I replied "No, not there". On she went "Well then try the" bedroom linen, coathanger, shoe insert area (well not those words but...) So off I went again and spent another inordinate amount of time searching for a hottie. Again to no avail. So off I went to the 'store manager' (time is getting away from me now!) "Yes" she said "Follow me" and with that we headed down the aisle marked coffee. By this time I was frantic. Why on earth would she take me down that aisle. And there opposite the coffee were the freezer bottles and an array of smart metal water bottles. "No" I wept "I'm looking for a hot water bottle" and 'cuddled' myself (!) "It's to keep me warm at night". "Yes" she said looking at me as if I was mad (!) and pointed to the very bottom shelf. And there they were. In the water bottle 'department'. Now I ask you - why on earth would you put them there - opposite the coffee! It would appear that the store-shelf-allocator had no idea what they were for. (Perhaps drinking hot water from them?!) "My apologies" I grovelled with my tail between my legs. Then it was back to the checkout (by this stage I had overstayed my free hour of parking!) to report to my checkout chick where she could find them. "That's ridiculous" she replied. "I'll report it and have them moved" (now this was a pro-active chick)

A polo-necked fair isle cover - very smart but not cashmere!
So if you think you need comforting, then why not head to the supermarket aisle near the coffee - or the local chemist! You can then cuddle your way through a Melbourne winter. Happy cuddling!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

The Shack

I was telling a friend recently that I was heading off to South Australia to stay at 'The Shack' for Easter. Now my friend likes all the very best comforts of life and I know she was horrified to think that I was off to a hovel!
2 captains of industry - my father (with large fish in hand), my mother, and 'shack owner' in front of The 'original' Shack
So I thought I would give you a little background into 'The Shack'. Located on the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula about 1.5 hours south of Adelaide it was the holiday 'home' we went to when I was growing up. Well we didn't 'own' it - but our little family of 3 were invited often to stay with my parents best friends - a family of 6! (not counting the dogs in both families). To say that it was rough and ready would be an understatement. It was basically a single garage that after a number of years had a 'dream home' extension added - another garage room behind it! Our parents slept in the living room in wire bunks - which were used during the day as 'couches'. That room contained the kitchen which comprised a table and chairs to seat either the adults or the children (but not both!) a 2 burner kerosine stove, a kerosine fridge and the piece-de-resistance were the kerosine 'Tilley' lamps we needed to pump up to light our way at night. (there was a lot of pumping required to keep us going!) The backroom comprised 4 bunks - and a sort of 'roll-out' when I was staying - a wash basin (with a bucket below to catch the water) an outside tank and that was it! Oh did I forget to mention the 'dunny' up in the sand-dunes which needed to be emptied - often. (It seemed to be one of my fathers' less enchanting tasks when we were staying!)
Lined up for a swim - my father, aunt, me (!) my mother and at the front the current Shack owner and custodian!!
A real-estate description would have been interesting but if one was geared to location, location, location then this had it all. It was built right on the beach. When a storm came 'The Shack' was surrounded by crashing waves as we peered out the louvred windows. After the storm had abated we would step outside gingerley. Often the sand had been swept away and 'The Shack' would be swinging and teetering on its high-heels. Additional posts would need to be anchored to extend the 'high-heels' so that the entire building (?!) wouldn't collapse.

Did we have fun or did we have fun! Children - and the adults (the laughter after we had gone to bed - would reverberate through the connecting door to us) lived in paradise. Can you imagine children these days putting up with no en-suite, no running water and all sharing the bedroom. Let alone the parents sharing - in the kitchen/living room! We spent our days out on the reef searching for cowries, starfish and all manner of other weird and wonderful treasures. We swam in the clear blue water made safe by the surrounding reef. We went fishing in the dinghy and ate the freshest fish imaginable. We used the squid for bait (now we eat it as calamari!) and we romped and played hidey in the huge mounds of seaweed which came and went each year. We walked across the paddocks to collect a pitcher of fresh milk from the farmer nearby. We climbed Mt NeverRest (no idea of its real name) and we found the best mulberry trees to raid. The day always concluded with us tucked up in bed and my father coming through the wire door with its noisy hinge to tell us terrifying stories (he told me later that he scared himself too - so much for a vivid imagination!) And they were supposed to put us to sleep! Eyes wide open and agog! It was paradise. And it still is. 
Inside - all light and airy - ne'er a lean-to in sight
'The Shack' has been replaced by one of the most beautiful homes imaginable. There are bathrooms aplenty, 15 huge water tanks to supply our needs, french linen adorns the beds and the kitchen has hot and cold running everything (including water!) It is style personified. Choose to eat on the covered verandah out the front or, if it's too windy in the enclosed sandy courtyard, or choose to eat at the dining table. So much choice! Go trawling for squid over the reef out the front while getting some exercise paddling one of the kayaks, tow the boat by tractor down to the water and head out fishing, take a stiff walk to Normie (Normanville) and back before breakfast, watch the sun set over Rapid Bay. Put your feet up and have an espresso - or a wine! Enjoy a fire at night if it's cold. Go exploring the reef or, go shelling all along the beach (those cowries are like gold to find), or take a walk up the nearby creek. Barbeque the freshly caught calamari, whiting, snapper and flathead to name just a few. So let me take you on a journey of  'The Shack' as it is today and you will see why I call it Paradise.
Watch the world go by on the front verandah
An uninterupted view of the sun going down
The Shack 'sitting in the sand' with Mt NeverRest behind and a kayak awaiting out front
Too breezy on the front verandah - then try the inner courtyard
The main bedroom - including a framed photo of the original 'line up' for a swim
Read or sunbake on the deck
Hide in the seaweed mounds, or drive to the far point - Rapid Bay - and take the ferry to Kangaroo Island
The reef exposed - what's hiding under that rock ledge?
Mr Seagull showing you the safe swimming area surrounded by the reef
Let's go fishin
On my visit this time I took over a 'shell' mirror that I had made with shells I had gathered over the years at The Shack.
There's a chinamans hat and a fan shell
The shell frame reflecting some quirky artwork in the 3rd bedroom
The youngest of the 4 children of my 'claytons' family (the family you have when you don't have a family!) is now the custodian with her family (her daughter is one of my God-daughters) of this extraordinary piece of real estate. But I feel it is a part of me as well. I even took my parents ashes from the Cemetery and we scattered them in a 'garden of eden' on the reef and in the nearby sandhills. It's where I'll go when my journey ends. 
At the going down of my sun I'll be in Paradise