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.)

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.

Time for an update

Last time I wrote I was settling back into Stage 3 lockdown. Unfortunately case numbers in Melbourne are not flattening, and there is talk about going into Stage 4. That will be a new world, because things weren’t that strict last time around. However, we have to get the numbers down.

And really, for me, it doesn’t make a lot of difference. I am only making brief forays into shops for food and often a walk up the street for take away coffee. I can get food delivered, and can forgo the coffee 😩. I have a backyard that needs lots of work and plenty in the house to keep me out of mischief. My heart goes out to the others who are not in my position, and unfortunately there are so many of them at the moment.

Also I wrote about the public housing towers. Residents in eight of the nine towers are now at Stage 3 ~ able to go out for food, exercise, work and care. However one tower had to be kept in strict quarantine as it was deemed that residents were either positive or a close contact of those who were. They are, apparently well supported. I am not sure what level of care is being taken in other towers around Melbourne.

But enough of the virus!


The other day I received three delightful treats in my letter box. The first was a card from my Mum, who lives on the other side of town. We often write to each other. Then there were two lovely protea flowers. I must have a secret admirer, as I have no idea who they were from.

The third was even more special. It was a parcel from Catherine in New Zealand. She blogs at Random Thoughts from a Non-Warped Mind and Catherine: the Maker. She constantly amazes me with the things she makes, and this parcel was full of joyful creations.

A treasure trove of goodies from Catherine

You can see the range of goodies ~ cards, notebooks, fabric squares, knitted delights, hand embroidered pieces, papers embellished and printed. How blessed am I? And blown away by her generosity, and talent.


It is a while since I have told you anything of my art, aside from my Stitch-A-Long sewing. I have been better at keeping my newsletter readers more up-to-date; if you want to be in the know you can sign up for my vaguely fortnightly newsletter. There will be a new one in the next day or two, where I will be writing in more detail about tearing paper.

While it took me a while to get going, lately I have been busy with arty things, especially any thing to do with paper:

Gelli plate printing

Collaging

Folding paper

And now tearing and sewing paper (More on this in my newsletter.)

It is good to have a place to escape into, isn’t it?


As you can tell from the fancy dropped capital letters and the little separating dots, I have been playing with the new WordPress editor. I only have one whinge. In the old system I could upload photos straight from Google photos. Now I have to download them into iPhotos and then upload them. Am I missing the magic button that will save me a few steps? Any ideas?

A Melbourne-wide lockdown

When I wrote to you last week my suburb was one of ten postcodes that had been put into lockdown. Numbers of positive cases have continued to grow, and so all of Melbourne has gone back into lockdown. Last time the numbers were mainly from overseas travellers. Disturbingly, this time numbers are from community spread. There has been a huge amount of testing and each positive case has to be traced, and contacts contacted and isolated. It is a mammoth job, requiring personnel from other states.

Our Premier, Dan Andrews, has likened it to a bushfire ~ and we are very familiar with them. There is the front of the fire that has to be brought under control, but we also know that there are spot fires that cannot be allowed to get out of hand.

[Andrews has copped a lot of flack because of the spread from hotel quarantine to security personnel. My friend Meeks points out that others, including the federal Liberal Government, had a big role to play in the outbreak too.]

Borders to other states have been closed. Like everything to do with this pandemic, closing the physical borders with South Australia and New South Wales, has thrown up many associated problems. Along the Murray River, the border between Victoria and NSW, are twin cities and towns. Like Albury and Wodonga; the former is in NSW, the latter in Victoria, but in so many regards they are the one city. People cross the border to work, go to medical and other appointments, visit friends and relatives and all those other things of daily life that we used to take for granted. Now they will need a permit to cross. No surprises to learn that the website approving the permits crashed because of high demand.

However, there has been a far more disturbing development.

A spike of cases has been identified in nine tower blocks of public housing on two separate sites in Flemington and North Melbourne. On Saturday the state government determined that those nine towers go into immediate hard lockdown ~ nobody was able to leave their flats for any reason at all. There was no warning for the 3,000 residents. The first they knew was a massive police presence on the estates, stopping people from leaving their homes.

This must have been so distressing for the tenants. Social housing means that residents have been doing it tough. There are many refugees, recent migrants, unemployed people, culturally and linguistically diverse communities. I can only imagine the trauma they felt when they saw the police on their doorstep. Many had memories of police and army brutality in their birth countries, while over the years policing on the estates has been very heavy handed.

Then it became clear that many issues had not been thought through. The main one was getting food and other essentials to the residents. The community rallied, providing food, meals, sanitary items, kids’ activities and so on. However, there seemed to be a long delay, sometimes days, before the food was able to get to people. Early on delivery was of culturally inappropriate food, food that was out of date or missing basics like nappies or milk. I don’t know why it was not possible for the food that was literally at the bottom of the towers to get to the residents. I am hoping that these supply chains have been built and that people are getting what they need.

I understand that public health action was needed. However it needed a public health response and not a policing one. If there had been a smaller police presence and a greater nursing/social worker/interpreter/community leader presence the anxiety of residents would have been minimised. It was always going to be difficult to ask people to not leave their home for at least 5 days, but I think the government created so many more difficulties by not communicating effectively, in as many languages as necessary.

I don’t want to give the impression that residents have been ignoring the public health advice. I am sure they abided by restriction in the previous lockdown. The problem is the conditions where they live ~ conditions, like small flats and lifts, that they have no control over.

However, this outbreak in the tower blocks has exposed so much more about the deep problem we have with our social housing, which is our lack of decent social housing.

These tower blocks were built in the 60’s, and there are a number dotted around Melbourne. They have never been the answer to public housing. The flats are small, with poor ventilation, and probably little maintenance, much less upgrade in those years. There are two small lifts in each block, expected to carry everyone up and down twenty stories. No surprise that they often break down.

Into these we put our most vulnerable citizens. People who usually have no ‘fat’ ~ no well stocked pantries, no extra in their bank accounts, little superannuation to draw on, no sick leave. Often jobs that are casual and/or precarious or in industries that can’t work from home. And no space. Such as a family with seven children in a two-bedroomed flat, where the girls sleep in one room, the boys in another, Mum and Dad sleep in the lounge room. There are many single parent families. Families could be multigenerational, which increases the likelihood of co-morbidities.

It is no wonder that we are seeing positive cases on the rise here. This virus is showing us the cracks in our society. It thrives where people are vulnerable, where they can’t distance, where they have to use communal spaces. We see this time and again around the world.

So, surely it is our job as a compassionate society to make make life as safe as possible for everyone. I hope the lessons from here are being applied in the other tower blocks. That hand sanitiser is freely available on all floors, in lifts, at entrances, and that it is replaced when it runs out. That all communal areas, especially lifts, are cleaned regularly and deeply. That the communication is ramped up, and provided in all languages necessary. That residents are involved, as this is their home. That community leaders are involved as well.

Residents in these tower blocks are not ‘other’, not ‘them. They are us, they are part of our vibrant community. And what an amazing job they have done. They have been at the front of this bushfire coronavirus, battling to help protect all of us.

Well, here I go again….Lockdown #2

The northern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, have seen a disturbing number of COVID-19 cases over the last week or so, most of them coming from community transmission. Compared to many other places the numbers are still low ~ in the 60s and 70s each day ~ but still enough to know that it must be brought under control. We can see from other countries how easily low numbers can increase to numbers that overwhelm.

So the Victorian Government has declared that 10 postcodes (zip codes) are to go into lockdown. My postcode is one of them. And I am perfectly fine with this. Action needs to be taken now, and we know that isolation works at suppressing transmission.

It is interesting to think about why Melbourne has been affected, as the other states have either very low or no new cases. This is my interpretation of the information I have gleaned from the authorities…..

International arrivals, ie returning citizens, are quarantined in hotels for 14 days. Quite a few of these arrivals seem to have come with the virus. In Victoria security at these quarantine hotels was farmed out to a private security firm, while in other states it is the job of the state police. I suspect that some of the security guards caught the virus from returned travellers. That was compounded by breaches of hygiene protocols by these security guards. Sharing a cigarette lighter has come up a few times, as well as crowded tea rooms and lack of protective equipment. So, a couple of the security people caught the virus, and inadvertently took the virus to their families.

At this time restrictions were being eased and families could gather in groups of 20. We love our families, and I can imagine how exciting it was for these families to see Grandma or Grandpa or cousins for the first time for ages. It is hard (but necessary) to maintain that 1.5 metres in a loving family gathering. So the virus was shared around. Then it moved to other family groups, and so it spread.

Now we have too much spread and these 10 ‘hotspots’ have to go into isolation.

We can only go out for the usual four reasons:

  • shopping for food and essential supplies
  • exercise
  • care and caregiving (this includes medical)
  • work and education if you can’t do it from home

It all feels very familiar.

And comforting in a weird way. As restrictions were gradually being lifted I felt a little confused. Not confused about what I could and couldn’t do, that always seemed clear to me. Rather I was confused about assessing the level of risk. Should I go to the hairdresser? I answered myself “No”. Should I go back to pilates? Probably not. Would lunch at a restaurant with friends be okay? Yes, as there were only 3 of us, and I knew they had been very cautious. I assumed the restaurant had the right protocols in place. Each venture out needed to be weighed. Now any dilemma has been removed ‘cos there is no option to go out!

The other thing that strikes me about this lockdown is that my level of anxiety is lower. Were you like me back in mid-March, or whenever your lockdown began, worrying about all manner of things? Will the rubbish still be collected? Will supply chains hold up? What happens if our electricity supply can’t cope? Would I have enough food? I even remember wondering if the parklands would be maintained. And I didn’t even have the worry of job losses or loan repayments or how to keep a business afloat.

I know what this quarantine period will look like, and that I can deal with it. I am confident that things will hold up, that the rubbish will be collected and the lights will stay on. And I know that there are others, like my wonderful family, on the ‘outside’ who are there cheering me on.

We are still at the beginning of this pandemic, and numbers in many countries are frighteningly high. So uncertainty is our new normal, our Covid normal for quite a while. We know what we have to do ~ practise excellent hand and respiratory hygiene, socially distance (at least 1.5m, please), wear a mask and don’t go out if you are feeling unwell. And if you do have to go back into lockdown, please do it.

On the practical side, the exhibition where I had two pieces hanging has been put on hold. The Incinerator Gallery has been caught up in all of this. Disappointing, but that’s how these things go.

Let me finish on my lovely librarian. You know how I love my library, and how happy I was to have it open, even though I couldn’t browse. I went in yesterday, before the lockdown, to confirm that they had to close. The librarian asked me if he could select a bundle of books for me to borrow. So between us ~ me standing behind the desk and him at the shelves asking if I like this author or that style ~ I borrowed a stack of books. I wouldn’t have chosen some of them myself, but I will certainly give them a go.

So, between my art and my book supply I feel that I am well equipped for another month at home.

Stay well.

Well, here we are then….

You know, I feel so overwhelmed by everything that I don’t know where to begin. Everything seems too huge to be able to get anything down on the page. And of course EVERYONE is feeling exactly the same. It is quite startling to realise that EVERY SINGLE HUMAN on the PLANET if facing the same threat AT THE SAME TIME, and needing to deal with the very basic emotions and fears AT THE SAME TIME. Has that ever happened before? That’s another quite mind blowing concept.

I decided a few days ago that I would give up trying to work out my opinion on many things, such as the debate about opening/closing schools. The bottom of the problem with schools seems to me (see, I do have an opinion!) to come from not really knowing whether children are asymptomatic carriers or not. Will they spread the virus into the community, and elderly relatives especially, or are they better off being slightly more quarantined at school, keeping the vital health workers at work rather than at home caring for their kids? The experts are divided about this, because NO ONE KNOWS THE ANSWER. They can only work from data from overseas, mathematical modelling and medical understandings of disease spread. Data from overseas can only be a guide because each country has very different health systems, testing regimes, and are at different points along the curve. How can I have an opinion?

I only know that

  1. It won’t be over until we have a vaccine
  2. Our world will be a very different place then (but what it will look like is dependent on all the actions that take place along the way, including what you and I do.)
  3. I am so grateful that I do not have to make these big decisions that impact on every aspect of our lives.

So, to cope, I am doing what I can to make my life as healthy ~ mentally and physically ~ as possible.

  • Physical distancing, of course; washing my hands as frequently as possible (I may stop wearing rings as a result!); changing my clothes when I come inside and hanging them in the sunshine
  • I say ‘physical’ distancing, because I am still keeping a social connection, just through other ways. In fact I am in touch with way more people than usual! Kate wrote a great post about sending letters. Australia Post is still operating, even overseas, although there are delays to just about every country. It’s a great way to connect to people who don’t use the internet. I have been reading blogs, and love the way we are keeping each other’s spirits up. Every blog has its own way of doing this, and I thank you.
  • Eating well. Supply chains have been disrupted, mainly because they are scrambling to keep up with the over-the-top demand for food. The Fella and I are okay, and we have enough toilet paper, thank you for asking!
  • Sleeping well. This one is a tricky one. I am sure you understand how the dark thoughts flourish at night. I have a routine of calming tea, nourishing reading (not on a screen) and deep breathing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t I watch rubbish on TV and try to remember that things will be easier to deal with in the daylight.
  • Walking. The fresh air is a great antidote to the darkness. I have added in a daily sketch, which I am posting on Instagram. When I can’t walk outside I will sketch something from the garden. The point is to help me remember that the flowers are still growing, the birds dashing around and the bees are still making honey. The world still turns.
  • Each day I am looking for little things that are beautiful or joyous or connect me. Like these hearts in the window of a local shop, that closed today.

20200323_145253

We have had supportive messages from our neighbours, so I put this sign on our letterbox today.

20200324_114418

  • I am being careful about where I get my news. I haven’t looked at Facebook. I am relying on the sensible coverage of the ABC, our public broadcaster, as well as some recommended sites. I want information and well informed opinions from experts, not hysteria nor ‘I’m no expert but….’.
  • And lastly, of course I am adding creativity into the mix. Although, the odd thing is that I haven’t had time for much sewing lately. Keeping in touch as well as making sure I have the various supplies I need uses up quite a bit of time!

So I hope your strategies for keeping healthy, especially mentally healthy, are working well. Now, I am going for a walk and a sketch.

Stay well.

Namaste 🙏🏽

PS forgive any typos; my brain is scattered and my fingers are following along!

Anne Lawson Art

How to get better

The last seven months have been tricky for my partner, Terry. He has had multiple medical issues, and has been checked out from top to toe; literally ~ head, ribs, heart, guts, toe. He has had operations, scans, x-rays, iron infusions, injections, blood tests and heart monitors. He has seen specialists galore, a number of podiatrists and physiotherapists, nurses of course, and his wonderful GP.

I must tell you that we have an amazing medical system here in Victoria. I recognise that it has many problems and is stretched to its limits. Also I live in inner Melbourne, close to the action, not an outer suburb or regional area where services would be so much harder to access. For us, those services have been amazing. Not just the acute, hospital care, but also the follow up at the Outpatients appointments, the wound care clinic, the falls and balance clinic, as well as linking him to a dietician, a podiatrist, a physio, occupational therapists and other government services. And it has all been free. (Friends in the US may want to close their ears at this point!) As Terry is on the Aged Pension he has been able to access all these services, including over a fortnight in hospital. Only now does he pay a small amount for ongoing podiatry etc.

The good news is that we are getting to the maintenance end of all these medical issues, the time when the different specialists say “I want to see you in two months/six months/one year”. Oh news to my ears!

And each of them has listed more or less the same things to do over that time, to make sure Terry is recovering well. They are such simple, obvious actions, and work for building bones, improving vascular systems and blood flow, keeping upright, indeed, probably most things.

So here is my list of 7 actions, from the professionals who know about these things, to get better and stay well:

  1. Keep taking prescribed medication
  2. Eat well, as unprocessed as possible; include protein and dairy
  3. Exercise ~ within your limits but anything you do is better than passive sitting. There are the added benefits of building bones, improving balance and helping blood flow carry oxygen all the way from brains to toes.
  4. Sleep well
  5. Reduce stress
  6. Stop smoking “Do you smoke?” is one of the first questions asked. Fortunately Terry was able to answer “Not for a long time”, but some of his issues began when he was a smoker.
  7. Enjoy life

So, my focus is Terry, and making him as ‘right as ninepence’, with these simple things as my guidelines.

(I realise that again we are in a very fortunate position. We have access to good quality food, and can afford it. We don’t have added stresses that come from jobs, or job insecurity, tight financial situations, homelessness, family tensions, trauma or the myriad other things that will create stress. We know that there is a correlation between poor health outcomes and lower socio-economic lives. It is astounding that we, as a society, are unable to do these things which would enable people live healthier lives.)

My new love affair with Port Phillip Bay

I grew up in Brighton, a bayside suburb. I would like to say that the beach was a big part of my life, but I can’t. We lived about 3 miles away, almost as far away as you can get and still be in Brighton. I was never much of a swimmer, and am even less of one now.

It was a part of my childhood. We would head down to the beach after a hot day at school. My memory is that we would arrive about the same time as the cool change would blow in! Often we would swim in the Brighton Beach Baths, a stretch of sand and water enclosed by iron railings. Like a swimming pool, but with sea water and waves. There’s a smell that always takes me back to the changing rooms. I guess many people were happy to pay for the diving board at the deep end. For me, I was, and still am, happy to meander along the shore line, paddling, looking, picking up shells.

Brighton Beach is one of the long sandy beaches that circle Port Phillip Bay. The Bay is wide and flat, the waves gentle. It has always been one of the backdrops to my life, but never something I really thought much about.

Until I came down here to Portsea. Now I have fallen in love. As I have said many times, I am fascinated with the play of light across the stretch of water I can see from my studio. The water can be pure silver or a series of sparkles or deep blue as the wind whips up the white caps. The clouds throw shadows onto it. At sunset it turns pink and grey. Sometimes I can see clearly right across to Queenscliff, but when the rain comes in, I can’t see very far at all.

I am captivated by its moods.

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Beauty is a great beginning for a love affair, but intrigue is important too. I am intrigued by the Bay’s geological history.

Wikipedia says this about its formation

Port Phillip formed between the end of the last Ice Age around 8000 BCE and around 6000 BCE,[2] when the sea-level rose to drown what was then the lower reaches of the Yarra River, vast river plains, wetlands and lakes. The Yarra and other tributaries flowed down what is now the middle of the bay, formed a lake in the southern reaches of the bay, dammed by The Heads, subsequently pouring out into Bass Strait.[3]

Indigenous people were living here then. They have been here for at least 20,000 years, and probably twice or even three times that long. Before it filled, the Boonwurrung would have hunted kangaroo and cultivated the yam daisy on the plains. It is quite mind-blowing to know that people witnessed the formation of Nairm, as the Boonwurrung people knew the bay.

In fact they have seen the water dry up too. About 2,800 years ago the Heads, the small opening at the southern end of the Bay, closed. The basin, which is fairly shallow, dried up. Good hunting ground again. However, about 1,000 years ago the ocean broke through and water cascaded in. It is thought that water levels would have risen quickly.

The Boonwurrung remember the event through their story, and have passed it down to the current generation. You can read Aunty Carolyn Brigg’s telling here. If you are interested in reading more about the Boonwurrung, jump over to their website.

Before I move on, let me acknowledge that I live on Aboriginal land, of the Boonwurrung people of the Kulin Nation. As I walk this land I pay my respect to their Elders, past, present and emerging, and hope that I walk with an open heart and an open mind.

Even now there are many sand bars and shallow channels at the entrance to the Bay. Ships require a pilot to guide them in and out of the Heads, and to set them onto the shipping channel that will give them safe passage to Melbourne. The channel runs close to Portsea, and seeing the big ships glide by enthrals me.

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I love to watch the ferries ply between Sorrento and Queenscliff. They leave on the hour, and usually come into my view after about 25 minutes. So who needs a clock when you have the ferries?

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This body of water, that seemed so mundane in my childhood, has a rich history. It has sculpted the rocks that I am fascinated with, and is home to the weedy sea dragon, one of my all time favourite creatures. To see one in the wild is up there on my list of Things That Would Make Me Very Happy.  This one is cruising under the Portsea pier. I always look when I walk the pier.

I am not sure that I want to see the mass migration of spider crabs, but it is the biggest migration in the marine world, and it happens in the Bay. As it occurs in early winter,  it might be happening right now, by the light of the full moon.

Often we need to see the ordinary from a different point. Once we see the extraordinary we are more likely to treasure it. What do you see from a different point of view?

[Don’t forget you can see my daily doings on Instagram or Facebook. It’s more than my daily latte, I promise!]

 

Democracy + sausage

It’s election day in Victoria. We are voting to elect representatives for our Legislative Council (Upper House) and Legislative Assembly (Lower House) of Parliament.

We have compulsory voting in Australia and I think that’s a good thing. Voting is an important democratic activity. Compulsory voting means that everyone has to take some notice of what is going on, politically, around them, even if it’s only for the three minutes that they are in the booth filling in the numbers. Everyone has to think about it, even if it is only to vote informally or do a donkey vote (straight down the ballot paper).

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Many people have fought hard over centuries to get us ‘one vote, one value’. We know about the fight for the vote for women and for indigenous people to be able to vote. But struggles go back further. The Chartist Movement in Britain in the mid 1800s was a large working class movement that demanded many things we now take for granted.

The People’s Charter called for six reforms to make the political system more democratic:

  1. A vote for every man twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for a crime.

  2. The secret ballot to protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.

  3. No property qualification for Members of Parliament in order to allow the constituencies to return the man of their choice.

  4. Payment of Members, enabling tradesmen, working men, or other persons of modest means to leave or interrupt their livelihood to attend to the interests of the nation.

  5. Equal constituencies, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing less populous constituencies to have as much or more weight than larger ones.

  6. Annual Parliamentary elections, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since no purse could buy a constituency under a system of universal manhood suffrage in each twelve-month period.(From Wikipedia)

Okay, so the fight for votes for women was still a way off, but secret ballots, no property qualifications, payment fo Members of Parliament and equal electorates were major steps forward for democracy.

The right to vote has been a hard won right, and a right that not everyone around the world has. So I cherish my chance to have my vote.

The other aspect I am grateful for is that we have a nation wide Electoral Commission, which oversees all our elections. It was something I took for granted until I read things about the mid-term elections in the USA. Correct me if I am wrong about this, but it seems that in the Sates there is no national body covering all states, instead leaving it up to individual jurisdictions to determine electoral rolls, polling booths etc. To have our overarching Commission means consistency across the nation as well as removing the possibility of it becoming politicised.

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And I enjoy the Democracy Sausage after!

I am not sure if Democracy Sausages, as they have become known, are a feature in in elections in other countries, so let me explain……Many polling booths are in local community centres, schools etc. So they take the opportunity to have a sausage sizzle fund raiser. So, two civic actions at once ~ voting and supporting the local school by buying a sausage!

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So civic duty done….until the Federal elections sometime next year.

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Do you have compulsory voting? Electoral commissions or the like?……Democracy sausages? Love to know what you think about your voting systems.

My Library turns 50

Writing about books seems to be on my mind at the moment. I was inspired to write this post after reading Tierney’s from Tierney Creates. She posted about the stack of books she had just borrowed from her public library, and how wonderful libraries are. As she says: “So libraries are good places all over the world and librarians are some of the best people on earth (smile).” I soooo agree.

My local library is almost at the end of my street and it’s part of the fabric of the shopping strip and the neighbourhood. It’s only small ~ the building was originally a bank ~ but it fits in many activities. The busiest is probably Storytime, where mums and some dads and babies and toddlers all join in songs and stories. The noise is infectious and the prams lined up like a parking lot.

Lots of people use the library ~ to use the computers and the printer, the wifi, to read the papers, borrow books or just sit in a safe place. And it’s connected to the main library up the hill and along a little bit. You can order books using the online catalogue and pick them up. For people that don’t read hard copies any more (that’s certainly not me!) there are libraries of digital books, comics, audio books and films that are available too, to be accessed at the swish of a library card.

I think public libraries are one of the markers of a civilised society. A society that says that books, knowledge, entertainment are important and should be free to everyone, and is prepared to commit money to making that happen.

So what did I borrow this week? As usual I went in for one and came out with a few…..

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My library system is turning 50. So Happy Birthday!!! 🎉 My little library almost didn’t get to join in the celebrations, because in the early 1990’s the council wanted to close the library down. The time was an era of economic rationalism (when isn’t?) and the little shopping centre library just didn’t fit the model. But the residents didn’t want to loose their little library. We got together and demanded that it stay open. We won, thanks to a resident who was in a wheelchair and took the council to the equal opportunity board (or some such place).

The next move for the little library-almost-at-the-end-of-my-street is to have an outside make-over. At the moment it is a construction site, but it will be interesting to see how the library is brought to the outside, so more people can enjoy the space.

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