Monday, February 28, 2011

Bud and Elna

I would be remiss if when speaking of my old neighbourhood memories, I did not mention the family that lived directly next door to our house.  They were Bud and Elna and their most beloved dog, Jigger!  They were a couple of very loving and tender people who had never had children and had poured a lot of their love into their pet dog, and as a special treat they shared their love with me and my sister, Joyce. 

It took me a bit of time for me to understand their love, because Bud was always trying to cut off my ears when I ran through his terraced lawn down to the next yard, which housed my friend, Kimmy!  When Bud was home, he would sit on his back step, and if I came near, he would playfully chase me and threaten to cut off my ear if he ever caught me!  (It took me a long time to understand that for him, this was just a game, but for me it meant - stay away from Bud when he was around!!)

As time went by, and I noticed that after work, Dad and Bud would sit outside on Bud's back steps and share a drink and unwind.   I would venture a bit closer, knowing that I had Dad for protection if Bud approached me with his scary pocket knife.  I used to sit next to Dad, and would listen to their stories, and then often would wonder off and lay under the willow tree in Bud's backyard, not far from where they were sitting and trading stories.  I felt safe then.

As the years went by, I began to realise that Bud came across as this scary person for his own protection.  My house was at the top of the block, and all of the kids lived down the block past Bud and Elna's house.  Because Bud and Elna didn't have children, they didn't want the whole neighbourhood running back and forth through their yard as we played our games during the day.  So Bud was always threatening to cut off their ears - I felt privileged in the end that I knew he wouldn't touch my ears - was never too sure about the others though--I convinced them to use the alleyway instead!


When I got older and we had moved away from that neighbourhood and I was working at Giant Foods, Bud would occasionally come into the store to shop.  Whenever he saw me, he still jiggled his pants pocket and would occasionally pull out his pocket knife.  I could laugh about it then - I was practically grown up - but still would not attempt to cut through his yard if I ever went back! 

He was a big character in my life.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Spare a thought

Tonight I want to spare a thought for all of those Australians and now people in Christchurch, New Zealand who have suffered not only loss of income and home, maybe both, but for some maybe even  loss of life.

Emerald floodsIt started in Queensland in December/January 10/11, when there was massive flooding and many families in areas surrounding us were flooded out of their homes, and farmers lost their whole year's work as their farmland went under water, and they watched it then all rot away.  There was major devastation to Australia's export market, and its resultant income to these families, but also huge losses to homes and property damage.  Some families were stranded on roof-tops and upon rescue were eventually forced to seek shelter in community housing shelters.  Many children spent their Christmas' escaping the waters, and leaving behind them any trace of Christmas presents. The Australian community spirit rose to the front-line and support was offered wherever possible.
Damage to Ingham after Cyclone Yasi (Photo: Mic Lloyd)Then only a short time later, Northern Queensland suffered a major cyclone, equal to, if not greater than Cyclone Katrina, as suffered in New Orleans.  This time though there were very few deaths reported, but much damage.  Again the agricultural industry was devastated, and homes were lost. Many people suffered and while Queensland was just recovering from its flood damage, we had to turn around and try to cope with cyclone damage and its disasters.
Christchurch earthquake: Images of devastation Rescue workers search for survivors through debris on February 22, 2011. Photo / Getty Images
At last it seemed that life could at least get back to normal, and then this week an earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand at mid-day, in its Central Business District. They are still finding bodies! The devastation and nightmares that those people are going through can only be imagined.

My head is reeling from all of this negativity being forced upon us at the moment by Nature.  I know that as humans we can cope with a lot, but sometimes, one has to just stop and yell out--OK--enough is enough! 

My heart goes out to all those families who have suffered, and not known where they would lay their tired heads that night, or where they would find clean, dry clothes, or find enough food and especially clean water to sustain them.  In the worst case scenarios, they are still trying to find out where their missing family members are.  I have ached for you.

These natural disasters have to end.  As humans , we have been tried, and yet our spirit has still survived, and we still move on.  We are strong.  We will survive it all, but, this damage and loss is taking its toll, at a very personal level for so many people.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Afternoon Tea

After my curtain fiasco, it soon became apparent that I wasn't meant to spend a nap time on my own, if I wasn't tired.  (Refer to: It's Curtains for Me!)

In kindergarten this fact was discovered early on - because while the other kids were laying on their mats, and obediently resting, I was talking and doing stuff - mostly not involving laying still.  After a while, my teacher started making me 'nap' under her desk in her bid to try to stop me from disrupting the other good 'restors'.  However, one time she forgot I was under her desk, and while she was sitting in her chair, I became fascinated by her legs, and the small hairs growing out from them....out of curiosity one day, I reached out and rubbed my hand against the hairs, which only made her scream (out of surprised fear I suppose) and resulted in making an uproar in the classroom.  I was never made to have a nap after that - but 'helped' out in the office or was given 'special' store-room duties - basically anything the school could think of, just to keep me away from my class during nap-time.

In the summer months when I wasn't at kindergarten, I was basically left to run free in the afternoons while most of my playmates were 'napping'.  I grew up in an interesting neighbourhood, where on one side of the street, there were houses of young families (ie: my sleeping playmates) and on the other side of the street there was an abundance of older people, who never napped, and were always ready to be visited.  I would often knock on their doors and invite myself into their homes for a chat.  Picture a skinny kid, dressed in shorts and probably a dirty T-shirt, with short blond hair, which hadn't been brushed since getting out of bed, and most likely had either a skinned knee or a band-aid somewhere on her leg, from her latest tree climbing accident.

There were 2 main ladies that I enjoyed visiting who lived on that side of the street.  I won't mention their names, because they might still be there - they were pretty sprightly!  But one lady was very 'refined' and always served me diluted tea with milk from a porcelain teacup, along with a plate of snacks.  She also had a crystal dish in which she kept small pastel coloured mints.  I would sit in her 'parlor' with my legs crossed and used my best speaking voice as we sipped tea and I would eat her snacks.  We would discuss things happening in the neighbourhood.  (As I got older, I realised that I was a great source of gossip for her, and probably kept her up to date on every one's business!)

Another lady I visited didn't invite me inside her house very much, because she enjoyed sitting on her swing on her front veranda.  But I would sit next to her and try not to jiggle the swing too much, and would sometimes be given a glass of fresh lemonade.  I realise now that I was also a good source for her for the neighbourhood gossip--but hey--I was getting fresh lemonade!

My most favourite lady to visit was Hattie--she lived at the bottom of the block, and in order to get to her house I had to walk down our alley lane, and then up a small driveway to her back door.  Hattie grew colourful flowers, with big blooms, and had violets in pots in the window sill in her sun room.  She had a small bird in a cage, and lived in a fairly small cottage surrounded by flowers and filled with her stories.  Hattie and I were soul mates!  She did rug making, and made the best caramel corn, which she would only do if I was especially helpful.  She had an attic, and to get to it she would pull on a rope, and a ladder would come down from the ceiling.  It was my job to climb the ladder and bring down her hooked rugs, or anything else she wanted.  Sometimes I had to take things up there - it was a small attic, but it really fascinated me and I promised myself that one day I would have an attic and grow violets and have hooked rugs that I made.

On the days when I visited Hattie, she would often go out to her flower garden and cut some of her most colourful flowers, dip them in water, and wrap plastic around their stems, for me to take home to my Mum.  I loved that!  So, after giving Hattie a big hug goodbye, I would grab my handful of flowers, and wiping any crumbs from my mouth, and brushing my hair out of my face, I would wave good-bye and walk up the alley to show Mum the flowers and tell her about my adventures.  Mum would sit and listen.  She never stopped me from making my visits, and would always enjoy hearing about my adventures.  I think she liked the peace and quiet that was in the house when I wasn't. 

I was very lucky to grow up in such a peaceful and safe neighbourhood.  I was Everyone's child.  They all raised me in a way, and I was very blessed that they did!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Another Childhood Memory - It was Curtains for Me!

When I was a very young girl, I was forced to spend a lot of time in my bedroom, either through sickness (which I suffered at times) or being forced to have afternoon naps--this following little tale takes place in that bedroom, and is also the reason that I seldom was forced to take naps ever again!

I shared a bedroom with my sister, Joyce, who was 9 years older than I was - (I know, sympathy is already laying with her isn't it...), well at the time of this incident she had just been given the opportunity to redecorate our bedroom, and choose the colours and curtains for it.  (I don't ever remember being consulted, but I probably didn't care anyway - the least amount of time I had to think about or let alone be in that bedroom during the day was fine for me!)  I'm thinking that Joyce may have been about 14, which makes me 5--my memory is fuzzy on this point, but you'll understand soon enough.

On this particular occasion, I must have been sick again, and was spending way too much time stuck in my bed.  Mum would give me things to do, like activity books or colouring books, but she discovered early on that crayons don't just colour paper, but also walls and sheets - so in the end I was left with the basics, which also included a pencil and a pair of round nosed scissors to use with my activity books.

The curtains Joyce had chosen were a mixture of cream, tan and turquoise design - They were OK, I guess - I mean they were just curtains.  But this particular day, I decided to make them a work of art.  I have always had a great sense of adventure and often acted on impulse, only realising later that there may have been consequences to my actions - I just never recognised the consequences until later........

I remember laying in my bed looking at the newly decorated room and thought that the patterns in the curtains were an interesting shape--but could be made more interesting if only the sunlight could shine more freely through some of the patterns.  You guessed it - I took my round nosed scissors and cut out the patterns in the curtains at my height--I thought that Joyce might still like her height of curtain to still be whole, but this way, I could lay in bed and peek through the special holes to see the sunlight and day's activities outside.  I only cut through 3 sides of each pattern so that the lose fabric could sway and wave at me as we cheered on the sunlight outside!  When I was done, I neatly put away my scissors and my activity book, and had a nap--that hard work had really worn my tired body out!

I woke up to yelling and heard my name being shouted.  I wondered what was happening, then heard the footsteps on the stairs as Mum, followed by a yelling Joyce, climbed the stairs and entered the bedroom.  Apparently all of my hard work had not been a good idea, and no one could appreciate the creativity and waving curtain patterns that I had created.  I don't remember what happened next, but I bet it wasn't good - and I probably had to once again, "Wait until your Father gets home!".  I like to think that he enjoyed the waving curtain patterns!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Short Story

Ok - Just for you, this is a short story I wrote a few years ago - just thought you might like it.....

The Crime Scene

She knew that they would interpret it as a desperate action, almost premeditated. Well, it was. But it was inevitable. Too much time had gone by, and it wasn’t getting any better. In fact, she had to admit that unless she took action now, that eventually the Family would call in the Professionals – something that the Family didn’t like doing. She also knew that if the Family was forced to take action, that she would suffer greatly as a result. But for her to act upon this---to actually act on this horrible affront was just not something that Angela thought she would be finally capable of doing….

As Angela approached the large two-storey tan brick house, which sat back from the street behind a large black wrought-iron fence that surrounded the green landscaped gardens, she couldn’t help noticing how quiet everything was. It was a Friday, approximately 2:00 pm and while she had expected neighbourhood noise and traffic to perhaps distract her, she was surprised to notice how the afternoon shadows hid the house quietly from view, as it sat sheltered under the trees.

She had a key to the front door, but decided to turn the door knob first, just in case someone may have been in the house. No response. The door was locked. The air was still, and not a sound could be heard from where she stood. Quietly and almost with a defeated sense of what was to come, she reached into her jeans pocket, and took out the lone brass key that she had been given previously, and with some hesitation, she unlocked the front door. She looked behind her, as she slowly opened the door, to see if anyone was aware of what she was about to do. But she was alone. Not a soul stirred to distract her.

Angela entered the unusually dark house that afternoon, and sighed a silent, sad sound of defeat as she walked across the entry hall and began to ascend the large curving stairway to the first floor landing of the house. She knew that she would need to turn left, once she reached the top of the stairs, and that the second door on the right of the hallway was the room that she needed to enter. Her heart was heavy, and wishing that this was not happening, she gathered all of her strength and resolve, and slowly and quietly, turned the brass door knob on the door of that dreaded room.

She almost expected to be scared, but the shock of her impending action was numbing her from feeling. She just entered the room with a false act of determination. It was unusually dark, with all three windows in the room hiding behind heavy curtains. The bed was rumpled, showing that someone had left it in a hurry, and had hastily dragged the top sheet and coverlet halfway down the bed-top, and across the carpeted floor by the left hand side of the dishevelled bed.

Angela stared at the room, knowing that she would have to move quickly if she was going to achieve what she was being forced to do. She glanced into the ensuite to the right of the bedroom, and noticed a damp, stained bath towel laying just outside the shower door.

Suddenly the grandfather clock in the downstairs entry chimed 2:30, with its single chime, and Angela jumped at the noise. She quickly entered the ensuite and stepped over to the damp towel, and started to reach down to pick it up, noticing its dank stale odour. With towel in hand, she moved back to the ensuite doorway, she glanced quickly all around the bedroom, hoping that in doing so, she would summon the courage to take action. But as her heart pounded and her blood coursed through her veins and too rapidly to her head, she realised that only she could be held responsible for her next actions.

Memories of the yelling, and the accusations played in her head, and she wiped back tears of frustration and dread as she searched her soul for the strength to take on her dreaded task. Slowly she approached the large window to her right, and with a sudden yank, she pulled back the curtain, almost daring it to defy her.

Light poured into the shadowed room, highlighting the dirty clothes carelessly tossed on the floor and now laying at her feet.  Her eyes then settled upon the food encrusted dishes that had been carelessly tossed onto the room’s dark oak desktop. A steady stream of small, black ants were taking care of the food remnants that were still visible on the plate.

Angela began to feel ill, wanting to run away, rather that go any further, but she knew it was up to her. The accusations and the humiliation she had been made to undergo could not be allowed to continue.

She determinedly set her jaw, and stoically began her pre-determined task. What would they think of her? Would she be able to face them? She worried about how they would speak about her. She had always been so strong, so wilful. Now she had stooped to this level.

With a sad, loud sigh, she turned, and noticed the pile of books which had apparently been dropped or had fallen from the bookshelves on the far wall within the room. Looking at the books and then peering around her, she finally knew that this was the only action that could be taken. There was no escaping the obvious. She would have to clean her room. After all, she was the one who had made the mess.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Madison has left the building

Madison left for Brisbane and her new life as a university student today.  Really, a very simple and expected outcome for most families.  This one included.  It's just that emotions come into it, and it was hard to see her walk through the security gates at the airport and wave goodbye.  (It's not a final goodbye - we all know that, but this time it was painful - she has reached a new level in her life, the level where as her Mother, I step back a bit, and observe, and advise when needed.)  She is growing up---to be expected--but wish it didn't have to happen yet. 

Both Chris and I are excited for her, but it is sad all the same - I keep seeing the baseball cap clad head, with dirty clothes, running into the house excited because this time she didn't fall off her bike, or she managed to kick the soccer ball past Jock, our border collie and make it into the 'goal'!  This time she has a much more demanding goal and a big challenge ahead of her - I'm sure she will win this one too!

Friday, February 11, 2011

She's on the move

Very sad today.  Maddie is getting closer and closer to M day ---Movers day, followed by L Day --Leaving. 

I am trying so hard to be pragmatic and not show emotion--but the tears are there..

Maddie is just moving away to start a great university experience in Brisbane - it's  not the end of life as I know it---just sad...

Makes me wonder--what did my parents go through when I decided to move to Australia, and then later told them that it would probably be a permanent move....must have been heart breaking - amazing this family love thing--it just keeps happening--we get tried and tested, but if it is there, it just is!

I have loved my daughters, each in their own manner.  One is deceased, one is absent from my affections through her choosing, and the youngest is starting a whole new adventure.  I am very excited for her, and wish her well, as I have done for all of my girls.....just a bit sad to go through this losing time loss ---her gain of life and adventure and hope and wonder...I really do wish her so much happiness.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Quick one about Squirt!

It has been very hot here lately, and I have become increasingly aware that I have to make a special effort to make sure that I remember to give Squirt fresh water each day.  But I have discovered yet one more quirky thing about this crazy Lorrikeet who has invaded my life, and is forcing her way into my affections.  She loves ice cold water!
It all started because one day it was very hot down here in the family room, and I knew that she needed some fresh water to counteract the heat that was invading the room. 
I just didn't want to walk up yet another flight of stairs for the 10th time that morning, just to fill her water dish from a water tap, so I went to the coldroom, and grabbed a bottle of cold water and filled her dish.  I told her to wait until it warmed up a little, telling her that it would be too cold for her to attack all at once.  I then went back to sitting in front of the fan, and did some more writing.  Suddenly from behind me, I heard a loud squawk of excitement and turned around to see Squirt sitting in her water dish and splashing the cold water all over the place!  She was having so much fun!  She practically had a smirk on her face, and proceeded to empty her dish during her morning bath time session. 
I went to the coldroom again and got some more cold water, and putting it in her water dish, I told her to go sparingly, as this may the last time I filled her dish that's like she understands everything I say - instead, she just grinned at me in her beak like way, and started swinging on her rope swing....
It has become routine now, and each day we go through cold water fill-ups.  One for her bath, the other to keep her happy....She is a crazy bird --but always keeps me smiling....I'm not sure who entertains who the best, her or painters think we are both mad as we sit and talk to each other....but we know what we are talking about --haven't tackled the heavy life issues yet---but she's only young yet!