Sep 14

The box has been marked and we’ve sent our survey forms back.

I can’t begin to tell you how bad this makes me feel.

Maybe one day soon I’ll do that.

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Jul 23

It’s 11p.m. on a Saturday night, and as I’ve done so many times over the years, I’m sitting in front of a computer thinking about going to sleep.

For many years I sat here because I had two young children and I was unable to leave the house.  Tonight is different.  My two now grown up children have left home.  Tomas leaving just this last Wednesday.  Tonight we party.   As I sit here in my own space, a room just for me and my computer, I have the sound of a party happening behind me.  There is the hum of voices and I can hear Caitlin and Tomas talking eagerly with their friends.  Every now and then there’s a crescendo as the stories are told and the voices get excited before everyone breaks off into laughter.  It is truly a wonderful sound of happiness, friendship and unsaid love between friends.  Tonight’s a special night.  For tomorrow the house will be empty.  I will no longer need to live in a 3 bedroom house with room for Caitlin and Tomas.  So, Michael and I will live in a smaller house.

My mind goes back to when my parents left the family home.  The home where we all grew up, all 11 of us.  So many memories of this great house in McIntyre Street.  My parents sold up and moved to Queensland.  I was the last to leave home and remember the intense feeling of sadness as that phase of my life passed.

And here I am again, at the threshold of the start of a new phase.  A free man, without the worry of who is home for dinner and what I need to do.  Of whether or not I need to be aware of who needs to be out the front door in the morning. Of whether or not there is enough cheese, bread or milk in the fridge.

Tonight Caitlin and Tomas have their friends here.  There are people here who have been friends since the early 2000’s.  They have visited us so many times.  They have been to so many parties here in this house.  This place is as much a part of their lives as it has been ours.

They’ve gathered in a circle, about 20 young people.  Their eyes twinkle, their faces are alive with happiness.  They seem to all be talking at the same time.  All around is delight and joy.

The TV is showing photos of our lives in the house and the guests laugh as their younger selves make an appearance.

There’s birthday parties, celebrations and photos of everyday life.  Our home is chocker block full of memories.

Every birthday was had right here, at home.  Friends would come and we’d celebrate.  We would decorate the house for a mermaid theme, or a scary party.  We’ve had a space theme, Star Wars and a Knights theme.

The parties end with all of us standing outside with sparklers and delighting in the sparks flying off in all directions.

We’ve been happy here, we’ve laughed and cried together.  We’ve yelled and been angry.  We’ve broken things and fixed them.  We’ve measured our height on the door post and posted our artwork  to the walls.

Mostly what we have is great memories.  This has been our home.

Like the sparklers dimming and fading, now is the time for us to fade too.

We’re going to light up the world in different ways, and every now and then, we’ll come together to shine.

That’s what our family does.

 

 

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May 12

This is my dog.  Was my dog.  He’s gone now.  Went a long time ago.

He was a Koolie, an Australian working dog.  He was also a little thick.  Still a wonderful dog that was devoted and happy as dogs tend to be.

We called him Waddley Archa.  Waddley for short.  It’s a name I picked up from a song that I learned in the USA in 1984.  I was working at an American summer camp with the Scouts for 6 weeks.   Every week we’d have a campfire as the grand finale of the week with that group of boys.  We’d sing lots of songs, I’d lead them in Waltzing Matilda.  It was a fun time.

I learned several new songs, as you do when you travel around.  I brought them back to Australia and taught my own Cub Scouts these new songs, Waddle-ee-ah-cha was one of them.  It was really just a nonsense song, no purpose to it, and it had a nice little tune, good to sing around a camp fire.  It may have had some actions, and I’ve been sitting here singing it and going through the actions, they don’t seem right, and I look a right dill waving my arms around poking my nose and kicking my feet up.

Here’s the lyrics as recorded in the song book from the summer camp:

 

Waddle-ee-ah-cha, waddle-ee-ah-cha

Doodle-ee-do, doodle-ee-do,

Waddle-ee-ah-cha, waddle-ee-ah-cha

Doodle-ee-do, doodle-ee-do,

Some folks say there ain’t nothing to it,

All you gotta do is doodle-ee-do it.

I like the rest but the part I like the best

Is doodle-ee-do doodle-ee-do, Oy!

So, nice story.  But wait, there’s more!

I was playing around on the net and found myself at archive.org, The Internet Archive.  It’s a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.  I saw that they had a bunch of music recorded from old 78rpm records.  I’ve got a few old 78’s in the cupboard, and an old gramophone to play them on.  So I began searching through the treasure of old music to see if there were any recordings that I knew.  And there was.

In amongst them was one called Doodle-Le-Do  by Harry Raby and the 3-D Valley Boys.  It’s not dated.  I almost went right on past it, then the words began to sing in my mind and I thought, no, it couldn’t be.  I hit play and there it was!  The song actually has music to it!

So, here’s to Waddley and Darcy, our two dogs.  Hit play and feel free to sing along.

Waddley and Darcy.

 

 

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Aug 01

In January 1944 fires swept through South Hamilton causing much destruction to property. It was something that my father spoke about many times over the years.  His family lost the house leaving his parents and their eight children homeless.

nan and pop-2In 1981, when my grandparents, Nell and Percy Storer were 81 years old, my brother Shane and his (now) wife Mary Lou, my little brother Craig and I sat down with Nan and Pop to talk about their lives.  We covered much in the afternoon, and here is a small snippet of the day my Nan watched her house burn to the ground.

I’m not sure it was on Friday January 13th 1944 as Friday was the 14th.  I think there is probably confusion with Black Friday fires in Victoria in 1939.

Anyway, have a listen and read along.

Nan: Just reading here where we sold our Portland Road home, it must’ve after the fires certainly, 1960.
Mary Lou: Were you married when you were burnt out?
Nan: Oh yes. Pat and Lo (Lois), Pat was about 7. 1944. Whatever Pat is now, and I remember Lo and Pat said to us, there after Christmas, Santa had been of course, at that age, and Pat had what she used to call a bunny rabbit thing, it was about that high and it was all fluffy, you know.
And that was one of her gifts with her Christmas stocking, and Lo had the doll and that’s the only things that they took with them.
Ray took us, our son Ray, they had the milk round at the time, he and Tom. They kept the cows over in another paddock and they sold them. They had a milk round for the town.
And Ray bundled us all into the float and Dad’s away fighting fires and Ray takes us away from the fires which began in the other direction you see.
It came roaring down the railway line out here at Portland Road and we could see it, we knew it was coming, and Ray got us all bundled into the float and we went down here right down here to the cutting. You know, down here at Digby Road and we stood up on the top there on the high part and we watched the house go and dad had a haystack, for once you had sowed something that was going to be feed for the cows anyway, what was it? wheat? Oats? Oats it would have been in those days, wouldn’t it?
And he had the stack and we saw that stack go up.
And first one we saw was Fyfe’s they, you know old Maurice Fyfe, they lived over near the Abattoirs, over there now, and they had quite a new house and we saw their house had … pine trees all around and the fire started in their cut, their, what do you call it? The spouting and it went all right around the top of the house and I said oh my god, look at Fyfe’s, and there it was, it went right around the top of the house first, we could see it from the cutting, you see. And way went their house and we knew ours wouldn’t be long. You couldn’t do anything you see, because you can’t fight fire.

Shane: And what year was that? That was in the 40’s?
Nan: That was 44.
Shane: 44
Nan: 44. We buried dad on the Monday, my dad, O’Connor, and … we were burnt out on the Friday.
Gregory: What month was that Nan?
Nan: That was January
Gregory: January 13?
Nan: 1944
Gregory: That was a Friday. That was Friday 13th
Nan: Yeah it was the 13th we all said that was unlucky day
Shane: So what did you get left with after the fires?
Nan: We didn’t have anything left but the chimneys and we had an iron kettle at the time and flat irons, you know, way back, and the old flat irons were still there and what was left of the stove wasn’t it. We had a wood stove and we had these flat irons. No electricity out there in the area then, it did come later didn’t it?
Shane: You must’ve been pretty disheartened?
Nan: Oh, so disheartening.
Shane: Did you cry for a week?
Nan: No, no you felt like a lump of lead in there.
Pop: You had to start again.
Nan: You did
Shane: No choice I suppose.
Nan: You knew you had your family there depending on you, you just had to pull yourself together.
Pop: Start from scratch
Craig: Did you rebuild a house or move to another place.
Nan: Tell you what, we moved into a little place and you thought you were going into the army or something. We moved into this tiny place. There were only two places and Glares, Dad’s sister, you see, they were burnt out at the same time opposite us and they got in before us and they got this big place that, they had the coffee shop use to be further down near the railways. They rented that. There were only about 2 places available by the time we got around to it, and we got this little place out near…
Pop: Scoresby St
Nan: Scoresby St, and we got Red Cross came to the aid of us all, everybody, not only us, all of us and and ‘coz you hadn’t anything, nothing, barely anything
Craig: And all the children were still at home where they? The 8 children?
Nan: We had the whole 8 of them, yes, Pat was only 7, and all home. And they brought us these, anything in emergency, you know the old iron beds? You fold the legs back, like that, and type of straw mattress and that and grey blankets. But they were good, they were clean in fact they were new, real new blankets that Red Cross kept for emergencies.
Pop: That was all army stuff
Nan: It’s what you call a real emergency you see, not only us, but we were happen to be bad luck.
Anyway all this army stuff came and we had the beds in this little house, they were lined up like this, the boys, Tom, Ray, Brian, I suppose Leon and Norman. I don’t know where we put them, oh no, our sister Stel took a couple of them and Julie Brebner she took them, John use to be friends with Ray and them you know she took Ray and gave, Tom and gave them a bed. Oh it was well, it was hell let loose, it really was. Because it just swept everything right from beneath your feet.

You can read some press clippings from the papers at the time on the Western District Families blog

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Jun 18

In my collections of cassette tapes I have some of my grandparents and parents telling stories.   I would have recorded these on my tape deck using a tiny little microphone.  The quality isn’t that great and there’s lots of background noise.

These are moments in time.

Percy

Percy, called Pop. 1980

This story is about 1938 when my paternal grandfather, Percy was out making roads at a place called Mooralla.  That’s just out of Hamilton, near Cavendish. As the story goes, my grandfather somehow pull a horse down on his leg and it broke his leg.  That’s my grandfathers leg, not the horse.

In 1980 Percy, my father, Brian and his eldest son, Daryl, were sitting around the dinning room table telling tales.  Shane, No. 5 son, the not-so-attractive-as-me, was also there and has a very minor role in the telling of the story.  Asking as he always does, the probing question.

I recall, or I imagine, it’s hard to tell this many years down the track, that it was a Sunday afternoon.  We would have been home from church.  Dad would have started the Sunday roast while we were at church.  My grandmother and mother would be in the kitchen talking about how to get the flour lumps out of the gravy, you can hear the sounds of the grand children in the back ground.  The tale unfolds.

Here’s the audio recording and the transcript below to help you make sense of what is being said.

Brian: What year did you break your leg?
Percy: 19… Pat was a baby..
Brian: Yeah, I know Pat was a baby
Percy: And that’s 42 years ago
Brian: 1936 or so?
Percy: 1938 it would’ve been
Brian: 38, 1938 when you put that little horse down on your leg
Percy: Yeah
Brian: And you know what he done? Lenny Presser’s father was bringing him home in the car, he had a motor bike helmet and he had to have a piddle so he piddled in the motor bike helmet and threw it out the window.
Daryl: [Laughs]
Brian: Now that, that thing that he threw out today.. was one of those you know…
Daryl: Yeah, leather type, yeah
Brian: Yeah, would be worth half a million bucks
Daryl: Yeah
Brian: Coz Percy pissed in it
Percy: We just started this road work up at Mooralla
Daryl: Oh yeah
Percy: I pulled this horse, young horse, I pulled on my leg and it just went [snap] just like that and he drove me to the hospital, the old hospital and he went in and seen Doctor O’Donnell and he came out, he said, you drive him back to the hospital he said, they’ll be there to meet you. And I got up to the hospital and they had a stretcher, put me on it. But they wouldn’t admit you in those days
Daryl: Without your doctor
Percy: Without going to your own doctor
Brian: That’s 1938, just before the war, you couldn’t work for 12 months. He was on crutches for a long time, then your arms give way under the crutches and I remember he finished up with a leg in plaster and an arm in plaster
Shane: Why did the arm give way?
Brian: Hey?
Shane: Why did the arm give way?
Brian: Nah, hey, with the use of the crutches
Percy: They were too long
Daryl: Your legs were too short
Brian: No, no. All that was wrong the crutches were, weren’t adjusted for him. And now there was Miller’s, Thompson’s, and ah, no, Miller, Miller’s, Laidlaw’s, Bullock’s, they all finished up knocking back credit.
Percy: That’s right. Yeah.
Brian: They all knocked back credit. Now. Father Edwards come out home, Port Fairy Road, ah, come out home and they ran a ball.
You or for us people and they ran a ball at the town hall here to help dad and family and this other bloke and his family, no I can’t either [remember who it was], I forget the other fellas name, but he was in the same… he had a big family too.
They put this ball on town hall for Pop and the family and this other bloke and his family. Now, it was a sell out.
Now I remember Father Edwards, now he come out home on the, it was on the Friday night, he come out home on the Saturday morning and we’d been eating rabbit for twelve months.
My mother when she cooked rabbit, nah, nah, she could cook them and we loved them.
He come out home then and he had all these left overs from the ball, you know,
lammingtons, sandwiches, chicken, you know, whatever might have been there, and he put them on the table.
By
jove, I can see myself and, I can still see myself and two bigger brothers, Tom and Ray, pushing others, yeah, it’s ours!
That’s it, we all had a good feed.
That was one of the things that the church and the town come to.

 

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Apr 25

Here’s me in the kitchen again, this time cooking some ANZAC biscuits.

ANZAC biscuits trace back to the first world war and it’s said that the wives of soldiers sent boxes of them to the front line as they kept well.  Check out the history on the Wikipedia page.

In my family however, they are simply a quick and easy biscuit to make to feed the hungry masses.

 

ANZAC Biscuits

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sugar
1 cup of flour
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 teaspoon bi-carb soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
125g butter, melted

Oven 160c
cooking 18-20 minutes

Mix oats, sugar and flour in large bowl
Mix golden syrup, soda and boiling water in a small bowl. While frothing add melted butter and pour into dry ingredients, Mix thoroughly.

Drop in spoonfuls on tray and allow room for mixture to spread

Bake.

anzac biscuits

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Apr 03

Recently I made a Weet-bix cake based on my Mum’s recipe.

Well, this clearly has to be topped by something even better and more wonderful – enter Angela.

For the first time in her life she attempts to make a Pavlova.  We check Mum’s recipe and note that there are just no details on what to actually do, just a list of ingredients, so out comes Cookery the Australian way, the bible of cooking during the 80’s and the text-book for many Home Economics classes.

Pavlovas or pavs as we like to call them had been a staple of our family celebrations.

There’s 4 pavs in this spread – that must’ve been something special!  There’s no way Mum was using her own recipe.  Perhaps she’d committed it to memory and was filling in the blanks.

pavs

Here’s the video of us making our own pav – it’s not even close to the magnificence of Eve’s pavs.

 

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Mar 20

It’s Cultural Diversity Week in Victoria. This week-long celebration coincides with the United Nations ‘Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’ and The Department Of Social Services ‘Harmony Day’ on 21 March.

Every year we have a lunch at work, we have a rich and diverse community.  We all bring along something to share from our country of origin.

This year, I share my mother’s recipe for Weet-Bix cake, a childhood favourite.

Did a video too:

Here’s the details!

weet-bix cake

Ingredients:

4 weet-bix
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup coconut (desiccated is probably best)
1½ cups self-raising flour
¼ cup margarine (melted)
and 1 cup of milk.

Crush weet-bix finely, add sugar, cocoa, flour (and coconut), melted margarine and milk
Mix well and press into shallow tin.
Bake 10-12 minutes.  Ice when cold.  180º

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Dec 30

“Through the years, we all will be together, if the fate allows”

Christmas wrapped up for another year, and this Christmas again marks a change in the ever evolving tradition for me.

Christmas night as Michael (Did I say how much I love him?) and I walked along Beacon Cove after our Christmas Day he asked the question, “What is your earliest memory”.  A question provoked as he recalled his return to Australia to the nearby Station Pier, he told me of his memory of standing on the deck of the Galileo.  He was young.

The question is a good one that spun around in my head.  Michael always manages to find questions to ask that generate a cascading effect.  Earlier in the day he asked me if this Christmas was different, noting the change from this year to last year.  He asked me how I felt about that.

Here’s my answers.

My childhood Christmas memories are of my family coming together on that one day to celebrate.  I remember the excitement of Christmas morning.  I would wake, often before sunrise, and find my Santa sack, a pillowcase put at the end of my bed the night before.  I always tried to be as quiet as I possible could be, not wanting to wake anyone else!  I would have been sharing my room with my younger brother and a couple of older brothers.

santastockingThe pillowcase would be jammed pack full of goodies. It always had a Santa stocking in it.  The stocking, very similar to the one pictured, would have some lollies along with cheap plastic toys, such as a whistle or a water pistol.  This is a tradition that I continued on with my own children until recently.  I do have a memory of feeling the sack in the dark and it being big and bulky, I’d give it a tug and pull out whatever I could without making too much noise.  I can’t recall a single gift from it, apart from the stocking.

The next part of the day is the distribution of presents from under the tree.  There was much anticipation for me.  Our Christmas tree was always a real pine tree and often placed between a couple of the lounge room couches.  I would be sure to have the best seat in the house.  I would actually pick the seat the night before and when the announcement for presents was made  I would be the first in the room and sitting as close to the action as possible.

I would have to wait for my older brothers to come home with their new families, my nephews and nieces.  Dad would come into the lounge room and there would be a lot of chatter.  He would start to distribute the gifts by calling the name of who it was for followed by who was giving it.  “Gregory from Mum and Dad”.  There were always a great big stack of gifts to give.

tape playerThere are two presents that stand out in my memory.  One was a cassette recorder.  The other a Dolphin Torch.

The cassette recorder was probably one of the best gifts I ever received.  It would have been in the late 1970’s and fed directly into my desire to be on the radio.  I was able to pretend I was a real radio DJ with it!  One of the first songs I ever recorded off the radio was Flash N the Pan’s Hey St. Peter.  I remember that it broke, possibly a day after I got it, and I had to wait until the shops opened again so we could replace it.

The dolphin torch was something that I asked for.  I needed it for camping, big, bulky and waterproof.  The real reason I remember it however, was that it marked a change in my thinking on Christmas.  I guess I was may 15 or 16, and that year the only gift I got from Mum and Dad was the torch.  I felt a great deal of unhappiness about that!  The Christmases of Plenty had passed.

As the family started to expand we all bought gifts for the new additions.  We also bought gifts for each other.  So, that’s 11 children, two parents and an ever-expanding growth of grand children and partners.  There would be laughter, squeals of delight, the rustling of paper and a big mess everywhere.  This tradition went on for many many years, all the way into the ’90s.  That’s at least 20 years.

I’ll come back to this point in time, the mid 70s.  Let me just explain this video of the presents under the tree.  I took this in 1990.  I’m 27 years old, my first wife (ok, my only wife) is the first adult through the door, she’s preceded by some of my nieces, a steady stream of children and adults come into the room.  Finally in what seems like a TARDIS space we’re all in their and my Dad begins the handing out of the presents.  You can see my Mum and Dad under the tree, bums up in the air, handing out the gifts.

This isn’t all of us either!  By 1990, some of my older nephews and nieces, along with my brothers, didn’t come to this part of the day.  We’d already started changing the long-held tradition and celebrating Christmas in our own way with our new families.  This is one of the final times that we gathered in the family home at 9 McIntyre Street, Hamilton.  My parents moved to Queensland and that changed Christmas forever.

Back to the 1970’s.  Once the presents were over and done with we would then be getting ready for lunch.  The size of our family meant we didn’t go anywhere.  People came to us.  As the years rolled on and we had my brothers wives and there children, we also had additional grandparents, uncles and aunts.  We often had two sittings, and somehow my mother prepared both meals.  At a guess we’d have about 30 for each meal, lunch and dinner.

Specific memories are a little faded, and all sorts of celebrations roll into one, I imagine that it was all very traditional.  Two things about the food stand out, White Christmas Slice  and Christmas Pudding.

christmas pudding steamerThe Christmas pudding was made by my mother’s mum, Grandma.  I have a fleeting recollection of it hanging in a calico bag from the kitchen ceiling, months before Christmas.  It was boiled in a special aluminium steamer pot and served with lashings of cream.  I recall my Dad’s mother, Nana, being responsible for putting the sixpence in the slices.  Yes, sixpence, even years after the move to decimal currency, she managed to use sixpence.

That was my Christmas day, full of family, laughter and good times.

Christmas is now much different.  When Mum and Dad moved to Queensland that was the end of our family get togethers.  By then I had children and we spent Christmas visiting my in-laws.  That was nothing like my childhood Christmas.  They were full of stress and anxiety.  I got out of them as soon as I could when I separated, then I would spend Christmas day with my sister, Angela, much more relaxed.

This year, Christmas was lunch in the city with some good friends, followed by Christmas dinner with my children, Caitlin and Tomas, future son-in-law, their mother and my husband.  For the first time Caitlin wasn’t here on Christmas morning, Angela and her family were in Queensland and I took a train ride to the city to have lunch in a restaurant.

Things change, my memories fade.  All I’m left with are a few snippets and glimpses of how things once were.  Christmas will continue to change.

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Dec 24

In November Michael and I celebrated 7 years together.

What can I say.  It didn’t take me very long to discover that Michael is a wonderful man, and after this short space of time, I understood that I wanted him in my life.  I love him.

Like all relationships I need to give care and attention to it.  I don’t always get it right, but I’m willing to change, adapt and learn from the experience of sharing our lives.

vowsWe are a married couple.  He is my husband.  For me it was important that I find a way to say to my family, my friends, and the rest of the world how important this relationship is to me.  What better way to share the way I feel about Michael than a public declaration of my love for him.  What better way than marriage to say to this key person what he means to me.

We traveled to New Zealand to get married.  It was a quick trip, part of a TV documentary called Living With the Enemy.

That meant we had to share our special event with a fundamentalist priest from the Anglican sect of christianity.  I remember him, Father David, many times asking us to explain why it was that we wanted to get married.  Michael and I had to let him into our little secret.  That we wanted to change the world!  We wanted everyone to get gay married.  As that seems unlikely it would seem that the reason for our marriage is based upon a mutual love for each other, the desire to share that with our family and community at large, and to say to each other just how important we are in each others lives.

That seems perfectly sensible.

 

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