Blog

SAL

Another three weeks, another SAL, another “Postcard from liminal time”.

What a washed out photo…the backing cloth is actually a sage green, and the threads more vibrant.

As you can see I tore up a watercolour painting of a leaf. The leaf was quite curved, and I think this is why it didn’t work as a painting.

As the original painting was a single leaf I tore out around that shape, which left me with white edges around each shape. The other postcards, like this one, were larger shapes, in this case a shell, torn into smaller pieces. It wasn’t until I was into the work that the obvious white struck me. Tearing paper is always going to leave some white, but this is too much to my eye. I tried to break it up with the extra cross stitches, but I wasn’t happy with it.

So, it’s not my favourite postcard, but it taught me more about which painting to choose.

There are five in the series so far. Looking at them together for the first time I can see that they are vertical, with the exception of the eggplant, the first. Maybe the next one will be more horizontal.

This Stitch-A-Long post is organised by Avis. We are a group of stitchers who post every three weeks to show what personal stitching we have done. The variety of works is amazing, and the quality is always top notch. Use the links below to see their work.

AvisClaireGunCaroleSueConstanzeChristinaKathyMargaretCindyHeidiJackieSunnyHayleyMeganDeborahMary MargaretReneeCarmelaSharonDaisyAnneConnieAJJennyLauraCathieLindaHelen

How does my garden grow?

It is a year since I last wrote about my garden ~ well I think it is. Lately I have been planning changes.

Very little has been done over the last seven months of staying at home. It may have been in March when I bought potting mix with the grand idea of repotting during this time at home. eventually I opened the bags over the weekend! Much to the chagrin of a trillion ants that have happily nested in the pots for who knows how long, I repotted the mint, an ivy geranium (which is actually a pelargonium) and a couple of succulents. Still a few more pots to go (and more ants to annoy!), but I have run out of potting mix. It looks like more online shopping. (Our shops are only open for click and collect.)

Newly minted mint

It is out the front where the larger plans are underway. You may know that the front yard is where we have been growing our veggies as it faces north and gets sun most of the day. However, the last eighteen months ~ the Fella’s medical issues and the virus ~ have made me realise that it is impractical to have a veggie garden. It is a question of priorities. To have a proper patch, with rotations and well maintained soil takes time and thought that I have to, and want to, spend elsewhere. It means that this year it has been a jumble of weeds.

So, my plan is to plant out the front with plants that are indigenous to my area, things like kangaroo grass and murnong, a native yam. I found a great pack of 10 tubes of plants from nursery I like. However, I am foiled by the pandemic again. The nursery is not delivering because they have a large backlog of orders. I could do a pick up, but it is outside of my 5 km radius. Patience.

The weeds are still growing well!

The other part of the plan for the front of the house is the verandah. For an embarrassing number of years it has been an area of unwanted junk ~ old plasterboard sheeting, bits of wood etc. This year I decided it was time for a council hard rubbish collection, so more unwanted stuff accumulated. The pandemic thwarted me again because I couldn’t book the collection. Until yesterday when they came and took it all away!

It went from this….

to this…..

in the space of a few minutes! Hurrah!

Now the observant among you will realise that we don’t actually have a verandah, just a verandah-shaped space. My current project is come up with some temporary solution before decking is put in. However, I know that temporary becomes permanent quite easily around here, so it has to be something quite nice. But easy. My thoughts involve big pots and some comfy chairs to enjoy the sunshine and chat to neighbours as they pass by.

Out the back, the Fella, AKA the Undergardener, took out a big bush, which opened up some space. This space is one of the few in the back garden that all day sun, which is why the rose flourishes. The spot for veggies, just a few that take my fancy. I sowed in some silver beet and spring onion seeds, and haven’t seen a single sprout. The dandelions love it though.

I take heart from the flowers that grow despite the lack of attention over the last year. They just do their own thing and I love them for it.

Now, I am going to take a chair out onto the verandah and have a read in the beautiful sunshine. Celebrate the small things. Take care.

How about this for an unusual online activity?

There are so many wonderful things to do online. Have you been sampling some? I have listened to a range of talks, from topics about mountain pygmy possums (just the cutest animals), through feral pests, to edible weeds, as well as visiting museums and galleries and attending online concerts and book launches. However, today I began what I think may be the most unusual thing to do during this period of restrictions ~ an online pottery class!

Sew-a-longs, watercolour lessons, life drawing classes all seem quite doable online, but pottery? It made me laugh every time I told someone about it, and made me smile whenever I thought about it.

Many years ago, when I was doing my teaching diploma, I sub-majored in Art, specifically pottery. I loved it, and did classes for many years after that. Life changes and goes in different directions. It’s a very equipment heavy art form; paper and paint aways seemed easier. But the idea was always there…..one day.

This class is organised specially for Seniors Week through my local council, for October. Our first session was this morning. I was rather flustered at the beginning as I was under-prepared. It was my own fault as I hadn’t read the emails that came last week to register my address which meant they hadn’t been able to deliver the supplies. The tutor, Vincenza, very kindly dropped off my kit last night. I didn’t realise until five minutes before logging on that there was an envelope with instructions. The Fella was highly amused to see me dashing about collecting the things I needed!

Despite that rush I had a wonderful time.

The kit had all the important things, especially the clay, already cut into useful sizes, a little container of underglaze, a rolling pin and other odds and ends.

The kit

The class met over Zoom and Vincenza took us through making slab plates. Then we had time to work on our own, asking questions as we went.

My task over the week is to make two slab plates ~ one is to be textured and on the other I am to sgraffito (draw) into the underglaze. We can attach a raised foot if we like.

First plate ~ work in progress

The texture on this first plate came from rolling the banksia cone over the clay. The darker areas are from the ink of the paper I was rolling on. Vincenza assures me that the marks will burn off in the firing.

And yes, these pieces will be fired. Firing the clay was something I was unsure about, as the logistics of it seemed daunting. It seems like Vincenza will collect all our pieces in a couple of weeks and take them to a kiln for the bisque firing. I am not sure how, or if, we will glaze them.

So, I am off on a new adventure.

I love the way people are thinking about how to do things differently, and really appreciate that this is available to me. It has already brought me joy. And did I mention that it is free?

What have you enjoyed doing online?

SAL

I have finished another similar work, so these SAL posts are more about the series of them, rather than an individual piece. I seem to be able to finish them within the three weeks of SALs.

When a name for the series popped into my head it struck me that these works are becoming a serious series. So, they are part of the series…..

Postcards from Liminal Time.

(Curious about liminal time? I wrote my thoughts about it in an earlier post.)

This latest one is the same size as the others ~ 12 x 17 cm ~ a little bigger than a postcard. It also follows the same ideas of being uncertain about the future, that my art is changing without a clear idea of where I will be. There is also the theme of emerging/disappearing, covered/uncovered and impermanence.

You can see that I have torn up a watercolour of my favourite melaleuca trees. When I painted it I was experimenting with creating forests. This was one of the early attempts, that didn’t quite work.

I worked quite hard on this embroidery. For some reason it didn’t flow, especially the top part, the red couched threads. I think it got there in the end. I am not really happy with the the tree on the right ~ or more specifically the band of rust/yellow stitching that runs across it. It is too dense for the paper, too definite. I couldn’t unpick it, because of course the needle holes would still be there. The best I could do was distract the eye with more stitching, without making the same mistake of the stitching being too dense.

What I do like, and this was unplanned, is the notion that the top part is a little like the tree canopy and the bottom grasses and undergrowth.

I am part of a group of stitchers who share their personal stitching work every three weeks. Go and have a look at the wonderful work that is being done all around the world. Everyone is doing something very different, but always interesting.

AvisClaireGunCaroleSueConstanzeChristinaKathyMargaretCindyHeidiJackieSunnyHayleyMeganDeborahMary MargaretReneeCarmelaSharonDaisyAnneConnieAJJennyLauraCathieLindaHelen

Another story, to (hopefully) make you smile

My Dad’s story seemed to resonate with you, so I thought it is time for another. (If you are not sure what I am talking about, you can catch up with my earlier post. Or you can dive into this one.)

Just a little background: The story is told by Dad about his grandfather, Bill Mason, who lived in a little house in Canning St, North Melbourne. Grandpa Mason is quite a character, as you can tell from this story, which probably happened in the last years of the 19th century.

Grandpa Mason was a bricklayer by trade and like most working men of that time he rode a bike to work. He loved to tell us tales of when he worked on the railway viaduct over Flinders St, and the building boom of the 1880s.

One job he was working on was a row of terrace houses over Moonee Ponds way. They were up to the second story and it was time to knock off, and as always the practical joker, he said to his mate, “I’m not going down the ladder, Jack, I’m going to jump into that pile of sand.”

He went to the edge of the scaffold, swung his arms and pretended to jump. You guessed it, he overbalanced and finished up backside buried in the sand, arms and legs pointing skyward.

“What the hell did you do that for Bill? You coda hurt your bloody self.”

On this job were two labourers. Olaf was a Swede, a big solid chap, an ex sailor off the sailing ships. He did all the rigging and scaffolding, and Mick, he looked after the bricks and mortar. According to my grampa these two were always arguing. Olaf said Mick was as thick as two planks.

Here was my grandpa half buried in the sand heap, and Mick telling him how lucky he was that he put the heap of sand in that exact spot. If he had put it over there, “you woulda missed it Bill and hurt ya bloody self.” Olaf pushed Mick out of the way and he and his mates, still laughing, dug Grandpa out of the soft sand and straightened him out.

By now my Grandfather was very stiff, very sore and very sorry for himself. Now, how to get Bill home? He could hardly walk and the last thing he wanted was to sit down. So Bill’s mates decided that Bill wouldn’t be back at work for a few days. They lashed his hod and level to the bar of his bike, his trowel, bolster and brick hammer into a bag, put the bag over his shoulder, lifted Bill onto his bike, and pointed him in the direction of North Melbourne [about 3 or 4 km away] and gave him a shove. Now that’s real mateship for ya. Probably, as soon as he left the site, they would have been laying bets as to whether he would get home without falling off his bike.

So far, so good. Grandpa Mason reached Canning Street and home, still on his bike. But by now he was even more stiff than he was half an hour ago. He couldn’t lift his leg to get off the bike.

So there’s Bill Mason riding around in circles in the middle of Canning St, yelling at the top of his voice “CLARA! Come and get me off this bloody bike.” [Clara was his wife, Dad’s grandmother.] Well, either Clara wasn’t home, she didn’t hear him and knowing my grandfather I find it unlikely that she didn’t hear him, or she thought the old fool had had one too many. For whatever reason, Clara never came out.

Bill had one choice and one choice only ~ fall off the bloody bike. By this time he felt that half of North Melbourne were out in the street laughing at him. He had no option but to fall off the bloody bike in front of all those bloody women and kids. I bet that didn’t improve his temper any.

Mum said “For weeks after, whenever he went out walking he had to walk in the gutter; he couldn’t lift his foot high enough to step up to the kerb.

But t didn’t cure him as a practical joker.


And a bonus shorter story for you, about my Dad’s experience as a bricklayer

According to the Macquarie Dictionary, a hod is a portable wooden trough for carrying mortar, bricks etc, fixed crosswise to the top of a pole and carried on the shoulder.

Every builder’s labourer would have his own hod. The length of the shaft would depend on how tall, or short, the labourer was. When it was on his shoulder the shaft would be around 30cm clear of the ground. To load it he stood near the stack of bricks holding the hod in one hand just below the vee of the trough. Around 10 brick were loaded into the vee. He put his shoulder under the trough, straightened his legs, then up the ladder two or three stories, unload, then down the ladder and do it again.

Carrying mortar was the same procedure, except they would go to the mortar board, load the hod with a shovel, hod in one hand, shovel in the other. All the mortar and concrete in those days was mixed by hand, no motorised mixers.

When I was about 16 my Dad was building a brick house in Moorabbin. After spending a day on the board mixing concrete by hand I thought I would die. A day or two later my grandfather handed me a hod and said, “Here lad, have go with this”. I soon discovered that I couldn’t even balance it while loading it with mortar, and when it was loaded with bricks I could hardly lift it, let alone carry it up a ladder. I decided there and then that labouring wasn’t for me!

Even today I look at those lovely old buildings around Melbourne and think of the men that built them and marvel at their skills.


(The house as the feature image is the house Bill Mason lived in, and where my Nana grew up. After a couple of renovations I am sure neither would recognise much about it’s more glamorous self, except the facade.)

SAL

I have been enjoying working on a series of works, using the same sort of stitching. This is one I am working on. I am sure the stitching will look very familiar.

Let me explain about the scraps of paper. (If you read my newsletter, you will know about this. Click here if you would like to sign up.)

My art practice has moved away from more botanic art influences, so I am rethinking my connection to those past works. At the same time I am wondering what I will be creating when I emerge from this strange time. This work in progress, and the others below, have come out of those thoughts.

I took a watercolour painting of a limpet shell and tore it up. Rather extreme, but I have also been thinking about the impermanence of things, how unfamiliar and unsettled our lives are. I selected some of the fragments and stitched them down. The couched threads go under and over the paper ~ emerging, disappearing. To create the texture I am using an open, quite random herringbone stitch.

These are the other two I have finished. One is a torn eggplant drawing. The other is another watercolour limpet shell, in blue tones. In this one I also added some material scraps ~ you can see them on the left, behind the paper fragments. They are small, so are quick to work on. At the moment it is important to not overwhelm myself.

I am part of a group of stitchers that share their personal stitching work every three weeks. Go and have a look at the wonderful work that is being done all around the world. Everyone is doing something very different, but always interesting.

AvisClaireGunCaroleSueConstanzeChristinaKathyMargaretCindyHeidiJackieSunnyHayleyMeganDeborahMary MargaretReneeCarmelaSharonDaisyAnneConnieAJJennyLauraCathieLindaHelen

Hearing my Dad

Well, this will be a coronavirus free post ~ no lockdown updates, no quarantine blues, no case numbers.

Instead it will be about my Dad and my Nanna, with a tale told about my grandfather and my great-grandfather. I hope it might bring a smile to your face.

My Nanna was a great story teller. I have many loved memories sitting listening to her stories of the family. She had a knack of making the ordinary events of family life into funny and interesting stories, a talent she passed down to Dad.

Dad recognised how precious those stories were so over time he taped her memories. However, he didn’t leave it there. In the last decade or so of his life he wrote those stories down. This wasn’t just transcribing Nanna’s words, but creating books of family history around those stories.

We were all amazed by what he did for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, he always hated school, leaving at 14. Reading and writing was a chore. So all the stories and books he wrote for us was a great achievement. Imagine how proud we were in 2004 when he won second prize for his story “Grandpa’s Pipe” in the True Life Section of the story writing competition run by Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

Secondly, all of his work was done on a computer. These days that sounds like a very mundane statement, but he had never typed, much less used a computer, and was on a steep learning curve. He taught himself to scan, print, add and move photos and documents, as well as setting up files and documents. Interspersed with the stories and family histories are world timelines, letters written from the Western Front in WW1, maps and so on. How amazing is that?

Dad always gave us copies of his work, and they have sat on my bookshelf. A few weeks ago I had reason to read one of his books, looking to see if my Nanna had mentioned something I had been reading about.

As well as reminding myself what a trove of funny, family stories there were, I realised these stories were written just as Dad spoke them. It was as if he was in the room speaking to me, I was hearing my Dad again. It was a special time, partly because it was so unexpected.

Let me give you a little flavour with Dad telling this story “The Cable Tram”, set in North Melbourne where my Nanna grew up, in about 1919. I hope it brings a smile to your face.

The Cable Tram

My grandpa Mason’s grocery shop had a bike for deliveries. Now, my grandpa’s shop wasn’t busy enough to afford a boy to do the deliveries, so my grandpa did them. Imagine if you can my grandpa on a bike, a middle aged man, tallish, 5 foot 9 inches, thin but wiry, a black moustache, glasses, a brown fur felt hat, a longish apron and smoking a pipe. He always smoked Havlock plug tobacco. In my mind’s eye I can see him on that bike puffing away like an old steam tram.

He would come home at night worn out, complaining about pushing that bloody bike all over North Melbourne. Mum [my Nanna] was house keeping at the time and her reply was “Dad, buy a small van.” “I can’t drive girl” was his reply. “Len will teach you.” [Len was my grandfather, returned from the war and courting Nanna.] Eventually grandpa gave in and agreed for dad [Len] to teach him.

They got a Ford T van from somewhere, where I don’t know but knowing how canny my grandpa was, I doubt very much that they bought it. Probably the Ford T would have been one of the hardest cars to try to reach anyone to drive. The hand and foot movements were completely different from any other car, and for someone like my grandpa, the fastest thing he ever drove was a horse and jinker.

Here we have an inexperienced driving instructor and an even more inexperienced learner driver, with all the levers and controls on the right had side of the driver, out of reach of the instructor. In a ten acre paddock may be, but here they were driving around the streets of North Melbourne. All went well for a while, no stop signs at intersections, no roundabouts. Their main thing to watch out for would have been kids playing in the street.

After a while it was time to head for home. They drove into Canning Street, up the hill past no 47 to the top of the hill. The idea was to stop, turn around and gently roll down the hill to number 47 where the three girls were waiting.

Grandpa must have relaxed and lost concentration at this point, because the Ford didn’t stop, instead it headed down the hill towards Abbotsford St. This is where the panic started.

Cable trams ran along Abbotsford St, and it just so happened that at that particular moment one was about to pass the end of Canning St. The Grippie saw the Ford heading down Canning St, straight for him. He panicked, threw the cable and stropped the tram.

Here’s grandpa, in the Ford, heading straight for a cable tram, and he did what any normal person would have done in the same situation. He panicked. He planted his two feet firmly on the floor, gripped the steering wheel firmly with two hands, pulled back on the steering wheel and yelled for the bugger to whoa!

But the bugger wasn’t a horse and the bugger didn’t whoa until until it ran into the side of the tram. Luckily they ran into the side of the dummy and knocked it off the rails. The dummy is the enclosed cabin where the passengers sat in bad weather.

The drinkers from the Homebush Hotel thought it was a great joke. They laughed and gave all sorts of advice, most of it not helpful. But when it came to putting the dummy back on the rails there were plenty of helpers.

When it was all over and the drinkers went back to their drinking, the cable car headed on the city and Len took the Ford T back to where it came from. Grandpa said that he thought he would stick to the bike. It was cheaper to run.

SAL

[Sorry this is late…I thought I had it scheduled for yesterday, but apparently I didn’t press the right buttons. 😩 ]

The last SAL was three weeks ago. I have to apologise for the skimpy post that is was. It was also the day when we Melbournians found that we were in for six weeks of strict Stage 4 restrictions. Not a good day for thinking about anything but what was ahead of us. I have written a post about it, if you would like to catch up. I won’t go into it here, because I want to concentrate on my work.

Lately I have been scraping acrylic paint onto brown paper, and then tearing it up. I found it makes the most wonderful rocks. I glued the strips onto paper, then I wondered about sewing them onto material. You can see that it works well, but but not a good as I would like. When sewing onto paper the paper moves more freely under the foot of the machine. However the material was gripped by the teeth, and only wanted to go in straight lines. I would prefer a more organic line.

Last time I showed you where I was up to ~ couching and random cross-stitching. The difference with the other piece I was working on was adding the material shapes under the embroidery.

Oh, another difference is that it is much smaller, so it is finished. Yay!

contemporary embroidery

I have pinned it onto a stretched canvas, to give a rough idea of the finished look.

I enjoyed it and am currently working on another ~ to show next time!

I am part of a group of stitchers that share their personal stitching work every three weeks. Go and have a look at the wonderful work that is being done all around the world. Everyone is doing something very different, but always interesting.

AvisClaireGunCaroleSueConstanzeChristinaKathyMargaretCindyHeidiJackieSunnyHayleyMeganDeborahMary MargaretReneeCarmelaSharonDaisyAnneConnieAJJennyLauraCathieLindaHelen

Liminal time

Melbourne has been in Stage 4 lockdown for a few weeks now. Exercise once a day for a maximum of an hour; shopping for essentials once a day and only one person; only within a 5 km radius. And a curfew from 8:00 at night to 5:00 in the morning. Businesses have been severely curtailed, with only essential work to be carried out and workers needing a permit to show they are essential.

Mask-wearing has been mandatory for about a month, and most people are complying.

Our borders with NSW and South Australia are closed.

Fortunately these very strict measures seem to be bringing the numbers down, although our elderly in residential care have had a very tragic time. You might like to read my last post about our Elders.

And me? Thank you for asking! I feel that I have been doing this for ever, and indeed it has been a long time…..Day 47 today. My postcode was one of the hotspots that had to go into Stage 3 lockdown on 2nd July. A little over a week later there was a Melbourne wide Stage 3 order. Numbers weren’t coming down so Stage 4 restrictions were put in place. So 47 days of sheltering at home.

Even looking further back, there was never a time since the end of the first lockdown where I felt really comfortable being out ~ although I did have a chance to meet up with my Mum in June, and that was delightful. So I feel like I have been inside my house since mid-March.

It has been a very odd time. I am sure that every single one of us feels the same ~ this strange time, this between time. This liminal time.

Liminal time is a concept I have just come across, but to me it sums up this time so well, and in a strange way gives me consolation.

Liminality is the state of being between, being just on the verge of something, understanding that this time and place feels out of the normal. It is leaving the known, the familiar, but not being in the new.

Long haul air travel (remember that?!) is an example. Once you walk through the departure gates you experience liminal time, where the old has been left behind, but you haven’t arrived at the new, your destination. You are in a between time, way beyond your familiar.

Richard Rohr says it is “when you have left, or are about to leave the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer.”

So the coronavirus has forced all of us to experience liminal time, even those who are not now in quarantine. We have been forced to let go of our old lives and plans, but we have no idea of what our ‘new normal’ will be like. What will the economy be like? Will there be jobs? Will there be my job? Will my lovely Melbourne ever be lively and bustling again? Will the familiar patterns still exist? Will we travel overseas again? Will we ever be free of this virus? Will we……? The questions go on, because we have no idea.

Our sense of time has changed. How often have we said “What day is it today?”? Time feels like wading through sand and yet skidding over the top of the waves. Even our language to measure time is different ~ when this is over; when we have flattened the curve; when we have slowed down the spread, when we are back at the footie/concert/ballet. Or, as I am doing, measuring the time as days sheltering at home, rather than the days on the calendar.

This in-between time is a very difficult time for many people. It is riddled with anxiety, uncertainty, an unsafe time. Someone I read said that maybe this is why humans have built extensive rituals around these times ~ rites of passage, the change of seasons, even things like 21st birthdays, and graduations. The rituals are often guided by the elders and done in the community. To use that very overworked phrase, these are unprecedented times and so we have no rituals to soothe us.

My experience though is a little different. I am not going to loose a job, or be evicted, or be forced into bankruptcy. At this stage everyone I love is safe and secure. I have a comfortable, warm house and I can shelter in place with lots of things to keep me occupied. I feel safe, even though my future is unknown, and unknowable.

But not always easy. It is a sombre time. It is winter here in Melbourne, so the cold, grey, still days have perfectly matched the time. It’s a quiet time and a reflective time, but an anxious time.

It seems to me that liminal time is not limbo. There is movement and change, we just can’t see the final outcome. Like the pupa stage of a butterfly’s life. Which is not to say that at the end of this there will be a beautiful butterfly. Life at the moment is a shit-show and what emerges from the pupa could be mean and ugly. Or beautiful. Or a mixture. All we can say is that it won’t be the same.

It is understanding that I am in this strange between time that anchors me. The familiar has become the unfamiliar and will turn into the unexpected. Strangely, knowing that gives me some comfort, which I think it comes from relinquishing control. All I can control is me, and even that requires some letting go. I am thinking of the shape of my future life, although, because I am in liminal time, it can only be the vaguest of outlines. However, to reach the end of this lockdown I have reduced my expectations of myself ~ things like finding comfort in creating, doing simple drawings and sewing, things that feel right; laughing every day; being in the fresh air; connecting with others. Celebrating making it to end of the day.

I hope you are doing okay in these times. Remember to ask for help if you are not. If you are interested in knowing more about liminal time, just ask Lord Google. You may even come across liminal space, spaces between, like stairwell and schools after everyone has gone. Those places that have an odd feel to them.

I also found this podcast with Alain de Botton really interesting and surprisingly positive. One of the things he talks about is ‘constructive pessimism’ ~ bringing our worst fears into the power of the light. Instead of saying “It will be okay” ask “Will I be able to get through this?”, “Will I be able to bear this?” and “Will I be able to endure the worst?”. The answers will probably be “Probably”.

Stay well, stay safe.

Our Elders

Indigenous Australians have a strong and proud relationship with their Elders. They are respected, deferred to and listened to. Elders are the custodians of their cultural knowledge, understanding Country and Ceremony, and far more than I presume to know. Way back at the beginning of the virus Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were fierce in protecting their Elders, knowing how much would be lost if the virus got into communities. And, so far, they have been successful. That has to continue.

White Australians are not have not been successful. Despite the examples from overseas, despite the fact that before the virus we knew Aged Residential Care Services were vulnerable places for our elderly. Indeed last year a Royal Commission was set up to look the problems in the aged care sector; it is still investigating. Despite this we did not protect our elders. However, it is not those problems that I want to talk about.

I want to muse on our elders, and what we are loosing.

Now I am deliberately using lower case ‘e’, because we don’t look at our older people in the same way that Indigenous Australians do. We love our family members ~ our mothers and fathers, grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles, great-aunts ~ and are very fierce in making sure that they are safe and well cared for. We have sat and listened to their stories (and if we are honest, done a few eye rolls when we hear the same ones!) and built up a special and irreplaceable relationship with them. Quite possibly, as individuals we do see and respect them as Elders.

But as a generation? Does society regard them as Elders? Unfortunately that’s an easy one tho answer.

So, let me muse more widely, on this generation of 80 and 90 year olds, and how they built the Australia we know now. Maybe help create an understanding of why they are our Elders.

We righty spend a lot of time honouring our veterans and how their efforts shaped us, but we also need the stories of the women and men who stayed behind, who worked in the factories and on the land and taught in schools. We need the stories of the young lads who grew up in London during the Blitz, and those who lived in Greece under Nazi occupation. Or who fought the fascists in Italy or in the mountains of Serbia. Who survived labour and concentration camps.

When they came to Australia they combined with workers already here ~ a combination whose energy and labour fuelled the post-war boom. They worked on the Snowy Mountain Hydro Electricity Scheme, in car factories, in textile factories. They literally built the city ~ the oil refineries, the Westgate bridge, the new skyscrapers, the housing. In the country there were market gardeners and dairy farmers and sheep farmers. Let’s remember the huge range of businesses that took off.

Those coming from overseas forever changed our society. Food is the obvious first wave. We ‘Aussies’ learnt that coffee doesn’t come in tins, that cheese doesn’t come wrapped in foil and in a cardboard box (although I would argue that these blocks of Kraft cheese still make the best cheese on toast!) and that meals can be more exotic than meat and three veg. I remember my first encounter with an olive, the most unusual smell of parmesan cheese and my first taste of homemade sausages. We discovered places like Pellegrini’s, Lebanese House and Alyshas.

People from overseas made us look at ourselves, to realise that not everyone speaks English, that there are different ways to celebrate marriages and deaths, that there are different stories to tell, that we can adapt and change. That last one took time, as Australia has a deep vein of racism, and is still a work in progress.

This generation fought for our way of life ~ not in war, although they often did that too ~ but by demanding and fighting for rights. Unions membership was high and they fought for better pay and safer working conditions, and for societal concerns like universal healthcare. Women were demanding equal pay and more equality in their lives, lives beyond wife/mother roles. Indigenous Australians were fighting for a ‘Yes’ vote in a referendum for Aboriginal people to be included in the census. Australians overwhelmingly voted “Yes”. Aboriginal stockmen walked off Wave Hill Station as a protest against wages and conditions, beginning the Land Rights Movement, their cause strongly supported by the union movement around the country. The working class, a proud mix of old and new Australians, was instrumental in helping us find a new and more progressive voice.

So these are our Elders, who hold the stories and the wisdom of these post-war years. But they also have the knowledge of how to grow a fantastic tomato without the need for pesticides, the knowledge of how to make do and the wisdom of how to get through tough times.

It is inevitable that our Elders will die, however the coronavirus is making the dying more traumatic for everyone. We need to listen to the stories they have to tell, but we also need, as a society, to venerate our Elders, to show respect for their knowledge, as well as love. To treat them with dignity.