Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Presents on the Tree - updated

The year 1953, the first year I have vague memories of Christmas. It was also the year of our first Christmas in Australia. My family was small, just Mum, Dad and me. We had no extended family to celebrate, except for Mum’s brother and his wife who we lived with at the time.

Dad particularly missed his family and the traditional English Christmas. He recalled Christmas’ past of aunts, uncles and cousins joining together in badly sung carols; a wondrous feast, snow, open fires and presents, often hand made with love.

My aunt and uncle decided to take a holiday leaving just the three of us to celebrate on our own. Mid December had been exceptionally hot and, of course, nothing like my father’s fond memories of home. I believe this was the time he felt the most homesick for his beloved England.

Money was tight because he had not long found work after months of difficult searching.  Evidently, he couldn’t get a job because he wasn’t a member of the union and he couldn’t join the union because he didn’t have a job. Finally, he got work in a non-union factory.

But, homesickness and lack of money was not going to stop the pleasure of Christmas. He wanted to make sure his little family enjoyed a full day by introducing some new traditions.

The first was a stocking waiting on the end of my bed on Christmas morning. It was partly to keep me (and 11 years later also my brother) quiet for a short time. It didn’t work because we would head into Mum and Dad’s bedroom and jump on the bed to share the toy, fruit, nuts and other small items our stocking contained.

There were no big presents first thing. The stocking and its contents kept us happy while Dad cooked a traditional English breakfast. Only after breakfast could we open our ‘real’ presents. Like most other baby boomers, we generally only received one present although there may have been small parcels from overseas sitting under the tree.

We didn’t look for more. We happily played with our new gift until lunchtime which was always a full roast dinner with all the trimmings, regardless of the weather. Having crackers with our dinner gave us more trinkets to amuse us while Dad slept off the meal and Mum cleaned up.

But it didn’t end there. After a light supper of leftovers from lunch, Dad announced his second surprise. There were presents on the tree for us! At the time these little novelty gifts would have only cost a couple of shillings but over the years they became the most eagerly anticipated part of the day with constant requests of “Can we open the tree presents now?”

My immediate family now consists of husband (Italian) and grown up children (son, stepson, daughter in law) and my beautiful two-year-old granddaughter.

My family’s traditions, at son and step son’s requests are included in the combination of English, Australian and Italian traditions we now observe.

I still put together stockings with treats, toys and trinkets for everyone. They are still the first things we receive, and we still exchange “tree presents”. They remain the highlight of our gift giving. Sometimes they are handmade; mostly they are humorous; occasionally they will bring a tear to an eye and often they won’t even fit on the tree!

They are always there and always given in fun and love.

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Monday, 10 December 2018

Christmas without technology by Pamela King

I was telling my adult children recently about how we wished people happy Christmas when I was young - in the days before technology – before emails, text messages and social media.

We received so many Christmas cards they were a considerable part of our decorations, hung over venetian blinds, slid between books on the shelf and festooning windows.

Those from distant friends and relatives were packed with long letters on how the family had passed the year. We gathered round as Mum or Dad read them aloud, eagerly catching up on all the news. The few cards we receive today look meagre by comparison. Like homemade gifts, the greatest joy was to receive handcrafted cards from children.

We tried to ring those dearest to us, but it was not easy. Phone lines, especially Christmas eve and morning were jammed. You kept dialling numbers until you succeeded in getting through. To call overseas, via the international exchange, was a greater challenge.

Most overseas parcels were sent by surface mail and the need for early purchases six weeks in advance had to be kept in mind. I recall the difficulty of buying Christmas wrapping paper that far in advance. It’s strange when you think how early stores bring out Christmas paraphernalia now.

Emails were first to begin replacing greeting cards. Sometimes they were personalised but often they were mass addressed. Of course, they were also cheaper. It’s sad to think we take the easy way out. Is it because we don’t really care any more or, are we just lazy cheapskates?

Today it seems a quick post on social media of someone else’s picture and words is considered sufficient to wish family and friends good wishes of the season and the approaching new year.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

For the Love of a Dingo – Review by Karina McRoberts

It was amazing.

A lovely little read. Not a work of literature, but rather an appreciative biography of a woman who dedicated her life to improving the image of Australia's native dog. Just the tonic to balance out some of the heavier stuff I've been reading of late.

 Great to learn more about dingoes, but also about dingo-human interaction beyond traps, guns, and poisons. The dingo has had so much bad press; it's practically an evil icon.

 Of course, there's always another side to most stories. I commend the authors for their work in dingo conservation and for bringing the brighter side of these animals' personalities to life!

So now, I'm off to read the Pamela King's next book - The Merigal Dingoes! :)

Rating 5*

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Monday, 12 November 2018

The TOP 20 Reasons Dogs Don't Use Computers

20. Can't stick their heads out of Windows '95 or 98 or ME or XP.

19. Fetch command not available on all platforms.

18. Hard to read the monitor with your head cocked to one side.

17. Too difficult to "mark" every website they visit.

16. Can't help attacking the screen when they hear "You've Got Mail."

15. Fire hydrant icon simply frustrating.

14. Involuntary tail wagging is a dead giveaway they're browsing www.pethouse.com instead of working.

13. Keep bruising noses tryng to catch that JPEG ball.

12. Not at all fooled by Dogmore Screen Saver.

11. Still trying to come up with an "emoticon" that signifies tail-wagging.

10. Oh, but they WILL... with the introduction of the Microsoft Opposable Thumb.

9. Three words: Carpal Paw Syndrome.

8. 'Cause dogs ain't GEEKS! Now, cats, on the other hand...

7. Barking in next cube keeps activating OUR voice recognition software.

6. SmellU-SmellMe still in beta test.

5 SIT and STAY were hard enough, GREP and AWK are out of the question!

4. Saliva-coated mouse gets mighty difficult to manuever.

3. Annoyed by lack of newsgoup, alt.pictures.master's.leg.

2. Butt-sniffing more direct and less deceiving than online chat rooms.

and the Number 1 Reason Dogs Don't Use Computers...


Monday, 5 November 2018

That’s Not a Horse by Pamela King

At Warragamba four men loaded the horse trailer and we headed to the annual tourism expo at Darling Harbour.

Travelling down the Great Western Hwy other drivers hit their brakes or swerved well clear of our vehicle. Some honked their horns.

As tourism managers we often felt we were the poor cousins of our industry. After enquiring where we were from, other officers would sneer at the mention of Campbelltown and Liverpool. Of course, they were from more glamorous or exciting destinations like Port Macquarie and Broken Hill.

Debbie deftly backed the trailer at the exhibition centre’s loading dock.

As we started to walk around to the back of the trailer one of our snooty colleagues from a luxurious region got out of her car. “Oh, you here again this year? You won’t beat our stand. Look at all these stunning flowers we brought.”

Never one to be phased by people trying one up man ship, Debbie coolly replied, “Wait until your see what we have here.”

As we lowered the back of the trailer the jaw dropped on the snobby colleague’s face when we revealed our treasure – Leo the Lion in roaring position.

No Leo wasn’t a live lion. He had been once, and lived at the African Lion Safari, Warragamba. After dying of natural causes, he was stuffed and mounted on a large rock shaped block.

As we travelled through the Sydney streets Leo stood taller than the closed ramp and was facing outwards. Very few would have realised at first glance he was not a live lion.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Glimpses of Past Lives - updated blog

I was fortunate to be given a small metal trunk recently.

It contained generations of photos, personal letters and other keepsakes. The letters spanned sixty years and were written not just to one person but between several family members located in Australia, New Zealand and England.

I carefully sorted through all the items putting the letters and photos in neat piles. I glanced at the assorted items of memorabilia and pondered, what does one do with a 75 year old plait of hair and 85 year old baby teeth in little bottles?

I turned back to the letters and photos and conscientiously sorted them into date order then selected the photos with notes on the back telling me who the people were or where they were.

I carried the pile of letters and selected photos tenderly into the lounge room, placed them on the table and made myself a cup of tea.  For the next few hours as I read the letters, and put the photos in perspective, I was immersed in the past.

The letters were handwritten, many in pencil and faded, but my interest in the story they told made compelling reading as I was transported back in time.

My trunk of memorabilia provided valuable information for research I am currently undertaking for my next book, but the people and stories have also inspired a future book.

I thought how sad it was we don’t write letters to family and friends today leaving information for generations to come how we lived and loved.

Today, communication with loved ones far away is by email, social media and texting. These formats won’t survive and the stories will be forgotten.

Have you ever considered writing your life story or keeping a journal? Regardless of our age we should consider passing on our ‘history’ to those who will follow us.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Approaching Breezes

Have you ever watched a breeze as it approaches? I have.

Betty Sharpe describes the experience very well in “The Year Ambles On” 

I just had an unusual experience. I watched a breeze approaching.

My eyes strayed to a clump of bushy gum trees standing quietly beneath morning sunshine. I suddenly realised that the highest tips had gently commenced swaying together, yet trees closer to me were perfectly still.

However, it was only a matter of moments before the whispering wind had also reached their bushy branches, where it exchanged airy messages gathered from paddocks just passed. Soon it was rustling its breathless way towards the next trees eagerly awaiting its call.

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Monday, 15 October 2018

If I Did Not Have Dogs

I could walk around the yard barefoot in safety.

My house could be carpeted instead of tiled and laminated.

All flat surfaces, clothing, furniture, and cars would be free of dog hair.

When the doorbell rings, it wouldn't sound like a kennel.

When the doorbell rings, I could get to the door without wading through dog bodies who beat me there.

I could sit on the couch the way I wanted, without taking into consideration how much space several fur bodies would need to get comfortable.

I would not have strange presents under my Christmas tree, like doggie bones, stuffed animals or have to answer to people why I wrap them.

I would not be on a first name basis with three vets.

The most used words in my vocabulary would not be: "out", "sit", "down", "come", "no", "stay", and "leave him/her/it ALONE".

My house would not be cordoned off into zones with baby gates or barriers.

My pockets would not contain things like poo bags, dog treats and an extra leash.

I would no longer have to spell the words B-A-L-L or F-R-I-S-B-E-E or W-A-L-K.

I would not look strangely at people who think having their ONE dog ties them down too much.

I'd look forward to Spring and the melting of the snow instead of dreading "mud season".

I would not have to answer the question "Why do I have so many dogs?" from people who will never have the joy in their life of knowing they are loved unconditionally by something as close to an angel as they will ever get.

How empty my life would be....

‘Scuse me while I go scoop some poop... 

Author unknown 

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