Dec 22

I first donned a backpack and climbed the Major Mitchell Plateau in September 1985, I’ve climbed it a total of 4 maybe 5 times now, including the latest hike in 2016.

A lot has changed in our world since then, firstly the medium of recording the story.  I can’t find my log book for 1985 or I simply didn’t have one.  However, my second hike in 1986, dubbed the “Comet Hike” was written in my log book that was a foolscap Collins Minute book.  Written after the event.  Not long after that I started recording in a smaller log book that I carried with me and wrote every chance I had.  These days my rough notes become a word press blog and I share the story with lots of other people!  In the 80’s I would use my log books and diary to record daily life and then record letter tapes for my friends.

The invention of word processing on a typewriter and then computer also means that my spelling is checked.  I also have Michael who proof-reads for me!


Other changes.  Get a load of the car, it’s an HQ Belmont station wagon, not a Kingswood and the rear door has a roll down window and drop tray!  Click on the image, Marcelle and I both have mullets and we’re both wearing our scout uniform.  For whatever reason we thought these heavy cotton shirts were the go for hiking in.  In the other photo we’re dressed in special hiking gear, our shirts have special wicking abilities, we have decent boots and Goretex raincoats.  Marcelle’s backpack is the same one that Michael is carrying, however, check out my old one.  It has an external frame and you can see the aluminium hoop at the top.  That bloody thing use to snag on every low hanging branch I passed under.  You can still buy the sleeping mats, a single piece of pressed material, nowadays you wouldn’t use them as a yoga mat.  We travelled with lightweight self-inflating mattresses.  However, mine had a seam explosion so I would have been better off with nothing more than a sleeping mat.

We spent hours packing in the 80’s trying hard to get the packs as light as possible, these packs had about 16kg.  I carried 18kg this hike, so a little more but a lot less time to pack.

 

In the days before colour photo copiers we carried two A2 paper maps that were very detailed.  If we wanted to check where we were we needed to triangulate our position, so needed 3 landmarks within sight, and using a compass, rotate the map, draw 3 lines and basically have a guess.  The information on the maps was already 10 years old when we bought them.  In 2016 we downloaded an app onto our phones, paid $9 for 3 maps that has information that is regularly updated. The app even puts a little blue dot to show us where we were along with the full longitude and latitude.  There’s no need for wi-fi or mobile reception, just the trusty satellites overhead.  We could zoom-in for a closer look, or out for a wider look and drop a pin, here’s where we had lunch and where we camped.  We printed the maps out in colour to carry a paper copy and gave a copy to various people in case we got lost!

Cooking has changed too.  Here we are with a fire and a billy hanging over it on a structure we’ve fashioned out of sticks, compare that to our lightweight cooking pan sitting on a tripod above the flame.  No need to search for dry wood.  Still, once the matches got wet, even though they were waterproof, no fire was possible!  The menu in 1986 consisted of fresh hamburgers, dried peas and Deb potatoes, sandwiches and pikelets.  In 2016 we had fresh fruit, freeze-dried chicken and potatoes, along with packaged rice and salmon.  Luckily the taste of freeze-dried food is much better!

 

And then our sleeping accommodation.  In 1986 we wanted to go as lightweight as possible, so slept only under a tent fly.  In 2016 we carried a lightweight 2kg tent, including attached groundsheet and fly.  Lucky for us it didn’t rain back in the 80’s.  Ever.

In 1986 my log entry says:

As we descended we watched the mist blowing straight up from the bottom of the mountain.  About half way down the mountain we watched as the plateau revealed itself to us, the mist started to clear up before our eyes

This hike was the reverse, the weather was quite nice as we headed down Mt William, however, half-way up the other side we watched as the mist hid the mountains.

The significant event in 1986 was Halley’s comet, hence the black and white photos.  Marcelle lugged her big camera and tripod to the top of the mountain.  We took photos of the night sky.  I don’t have any of those images.  Michael and I took our phones and snapped many photos of the bush, the flowers and each other.  No need to have a film developed, instant delete, and much easier to manage.

The one thing that hasn’t changed in 30 years is my sheer delight and enjoyment with walking and hiking in the Grampians and sharing that with people who I love.


 

Read Part 1, Part 2 and look at the gallery of images

 

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Dec 22

Sunday 13 November 2016.

I woke up many times during the night to the wind, it was making so much noise.  There’s not much up here to stop it.  The driving rain came and went.  When it stopped the wind would continue to blow drops off the trees and so the fly of the tent was subjected to a steady stream of water falling.  In between all this I could hear the little creek burbling away.

I wanted to go pee.  How I wanted to.  The thought of gearing up to do so was way to scary.  So my bladder and I came to an understanding.

By 6.30 I had to get up.  I discovered that a lot of our gear in the tent was wet.

I climbed out to see the clouds whisking past me, every now and then a downpour would follow the clouds

It was quite magical.

The creek was up a lot.  Yesterday we could jump it to move around the campsite, that wasn’t so easy now.

I tramped through the wet undergrowth to get to the toilet.  The ‘flood waters’ had surrounded our little tent, and the tent itself was now in the middle of a huge puddle.

My hands are freezing.

I manage to make a cup of coffee, no easy task.  I enjoy sipping it, mostly because my fingers are wrapped around the hot plastic cup.  Subsequent attempts to light the stove fail.  The waterproof matches have gone to shit and even the cigarette lighter is so wet it won’t spark.

I spend the next hour and a half standing with my back to the wind, however, the rain continues to fall from all directions and there is no relief from it standing here in the clouds on top of the Major Mitchell Plateau.  Michael wakes and spends his time in the tent stowing our various gear into bags, stuffing bits into sacks.   I resort to running on the spot to keep warm.

We eat a carrot, apple and muesli bar for breakfast.

Somehow we manage to transfer our belongings from the tent to the backpacks, then we pull the tent down and shove it into its stuff-sack.

Ready to go by 9.00 a.m.

The clouds, mist, fog and rain are being pushed by a gale force wind.  With backpacks on we make a start.

Worm out for some sun

Parts of the tracks are on boardwalks, mostly however the tracks have become rivers of water.  I’m surprised at the amount of water about.  The worms have come out of the dirt for a swim too.  There are so many of them on the track, and they’re huge.

Still the wildflowers abound.

The reason for me being here is the view of the western plains from the eastern edge of the plateau.  Alas, I’m deprived of this.  Beyond the escarpment to my left is nothing but grey clouds.  A huge wall of what seems to be solid concrete all the way from the bottom of the mountain, up over our heads.    The rain turns to hail, hitting our faces and stinging.

We trudge along the boardwalk, the rocks and the sandy tracks with the water, gradually making our way towards the southern edge to begin our descent.

It’s very rocky and slippery in places, we take our time, being very careful about where we place our feet.  We arrive at a point where the path seems to stop, the drop to the next bit is quite steep and to big for us to navigate, so we go around.  This proves very difficult.  No track, big rocks, trees and undergrowth in the way.  We bash our way through to get back on the steep downward track.

Swamp wallaby.

Some two hours later we drop off the Major Mitchell Plateau and onto Stockyard Creek track.  The narrow mountain path in the closed bush opens into a grass plain with scattered trees.  The track broadens to a 4WD road.  We see a couple of swamp wallabies, the only wildlife we’d seen apart from insects and worms.

We arrive at a turning point, to the left Mafeking Picnic Ground, to the right Jimmy Creek.  6 kilometres to go.

The path now takes us up to a helipad, over the top and down into the bush.

Compared to the walk on the top this is fairly easy.  Still plenty of rain, down here, though the wind has died down.  I am now very wet.  Water has seeped into my boots and my toes squelch about in their socks.  My hands are in my gloves, keeping warm, but the gloves are soaking.  Every now and then I clench my fists and a stream of water falls onto the ground.  

 

 

 

 

 

In these mountains, away from the rest of the world, we see fields of wildflowers.  Carpets of woven colours in all their glory.  The visual of the track winding up the hill in front of us, the bush, flowers, mountains and the aroma of the flowers and the wet eucalyptus and wattle trees make this a magical experience.  The rain has somewhat abated and I’m happy to be out here in the Grampians.

 

It’s just on 2.30 p.m. we arrive at our rendezvous point and Merv and Naomi are there in the car, avoiding the weather.

I’m sore and wet and I’m very happy.


Read Part 1 of the story and Part 3 that looks at 30 years of change!

Be sure to check out Michael’s gallery of images.

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Dec 22

Friday, November 11, 2016

And so, here I find myself sitting in Halls Gap with my husband, Michael and our parents (in-laws).

Michael and I are about to embark upon a hike.  For the first time since 2002 I have opened my hike log and taken pen to paper.  This is the first overnight hike I’ve done in all those years.

We’re here to walk from the Mt William car park, down into Boundary Gap and then up the other side to the Major Mitchell Plateau.  We’ll camp at 1st Wannon Creek Camp and stop there the night.  Next morning we’ll head around the eastern edge of the plateau, drop off at Stockyard Track and down to Jimmy Creek.

I have my trusty backpack, my boots, food and water.

Ready to go.

I wanted to start at Kalymna Falls.  When I submitted the notification of intention to the National Parks, the ranger rang me and said I couldn’t.  It’d been washed out.

My heart sank.

Bomjima Picnic ground I suggested hopefully.  No, she said, it’s been closed for years.

More heart sinking.

I was a little worried that perhaps Boundary Gap was out of action.  Can I start from the Mt William car park?  Yes.

This is the launching place of so many adventures of my 20s.

Preparations have taken ages, new tent, water bottles, socks, pants, hats, stove.  My pack weighs 18kg.  Michael’s about the same.

Saturday.

Our morning started with the sound of a thousand cockatoos right outside our bedroom window.  Begging me to get out of my bed and ready to go!  There were so many other bird calls in there too, they were gently calling me to arise.  Unlike the cockatoos who seemed rather more insistent.

We all had breakfast in Halls Gap and by 9.30 a.m. we had made all the final adjustments to our back packs, including an emergency repair on Michael’s.

Dig that fancy footwork on the left 🙂

We drove to the Mt William car park.  I’m really quite excited as we drive up the windy road.  It wasn’t long before our bags are on our backs, kisses, handshakes and advice of taking care before we are heading off to start our adventure.

Slowly we start.  It’s just after 10.00 a.m., it’s overcast and a little windy.  On the top of the mountain it’s probably 10°c.  We take some time to get used to the back packs.  Pulling on the straps, make adjustments to the waist belts.  My calves are screaming at me, as they do, when I walk up here.  I remind myself that we have plenty of time and I slow down.  My legs thank me.

We got to the top of Mt William in good time, it’s only a 2km stroll on a made road.  We avoid the summit and turn off to the right before.  We’re now on a rocky 4WD road with plenty of low vegetation.   The flowers are magnificent.  Lots of small blooms, fantastic colours.

The walking was good and while being careful to put my feet in the right place, it was pretty easy.  Michael stopped to take photos along the way.  This first part of the walk is fairly short, so we had plenty of time to smell the roses, or the native flowers as it happens.  The road runs out and is replaced by the rocky path that will take us downwards.

 

By 12.15 p.m. we’d reached Boundary Gap.  It’s quite a steep walk down the side of Mt William to the gap.  I really love this little spot between the mountains.  As we walk off the top of the mountain the low shrubs give way to taller trees and less rocks.  Nestled between these two mountains, still high above sea-level, is this well-wooded area, tall thin trees, small ferns, flowers.  I’ve walked this track many times over the years, mostly with my hiking partner, Marcelle.  Michael has borrowed Marcelle’s Macpac backpack.  The same one that has travelled around the world and up and down hills.  I find myself in the same position that I’ve been in so many times with Marcelle.  Struggling along behind her, with a view of her pack.  I glance up and see the same view now, the blue backpack with the Macpac logo.  I’m transported back 25 years.  The vision is popped instantly when I see Michael’s furry face.

We stop for lunch on the valley floor.  Rice and salmon, both out of sealed foil bags.  I heat the rice on my new stove and then mixed in the salmon.  A little bland, but ok.

The next bit of our adventure beckons, from the floor of the valley, the only way out is up.  So up we went. I trace my eyes along the rocky track and can see the forest giving way again to more rocks and less trees.

Steep.

Then it began to blow a gale, followed by rain.  We stopped to put on our new over-pants and continued to head up.  The clouds hurled through the gap behind us, out past Mt William as if being ejected by a great force.  The rain set in with few breaks between squalls.

It was slow going now, the rocks are slippery as we scramble up and over them, before long though we are on the edge of the plateau.  We haul ourselves up and over huge boulders.  My memory is clearly faulty, I imagined this part of the walk to be much longer and harder.

Still, I love this.

Great wildflowers abound.  So delicate.

A howling wind is blowing the clouds that obscure my view of the world.  In what seems a blink of the eye we attain the top.  I can’t believe it was such a short distance.  The top is rocky, low trees and shrubs, plenty of grasses.  Still lots of colours from the wild flowers.

At around 2.00 p.m. we see the first sign of the camp ground, it’s the ventilation pipe from the loo!  The creek is flowing, so much water.  It’s the first time I’ve seen this.  Previously it was simply a trickle and I struggled to fill up drink bottles without a heap of silt.  Now we have an abundance of tannin stained water, and our water bottles are still full.  We need to jump the creek to get to the camping site that we’ve picked.  We quickly erect the tent and unroll our sleeping mats.  It’s difficult to keep everything dry. The mats are mostly in the tent, all they need is a couple of quick breaths to inflate them.  Michael is done in no time.  I grab the valve on mine and blow into it and there seems to be no inflation.  I keep blowing as if I’m filling the biggest balloon.  It takes a couple of minutes before I realise that I’m not having any impact and that there must be a hole.  An inspection of the mat reveals that the seam along the edge is no more and the innards exposed.  I may have muttered a bit.  There’s little else to do because of the rain so we climbed into the tent and slept for about 3 hours.

When we awoke, it was very very wet, still raining.  That didn’t stop us pulling our wet weather gear on and heading off for a walk in the rain, without our backpacks.  We saw lots of wildflowers with a rainbow of colours.

Back at camp half an hour later we had a cup of coffee and then prepared dinner.  Which wasn’t hard.  You cut the top off the foil bag and pour in boiling water to reconstitute our roast chicken, gravy and mashed potatoes.  Was pretty yummy, considering the freeze-dried nature of it.

It’s been raining the whole time since we arrived at the First Wannon Creek camping ground.  Nothing for it but to go to bed.

This is quite an elaborate dance that needs to be done.

The 2-person tent is only large enough for one person to sit up at a time .  The process begins by loosening your laces, then sitting with your bottom inside the tent, feet outside.  You take off shoes and socks, put shoes between the fly and the tent, put socks near sleeping bag to keep dry.  Slip off your coat, carefully, so as not to spray water around the tent.  Roll coat up and place at edge of tent, just on the inside.  Remove outer garments. pulling jumper over head without extending arms outside the tent, unbutton shirt and try to remove while keeping elbows bent, then slip into thermal top.  This will make your arms wave around in a confined space in a most unbecoming way.

Slip off your over-pants by raising hips slightly and trying to push them down your legs then roll up.  Try not to get water over anything.  Stow them near the raincoat.  Remove trousers by lying down, lifting hips and trying to get them over your knees without hitting the roof or having your legs protrude beyond the tent opening.  Then try and slip into your thermal pants by slipping both legs in and trying to stop the legs of the underwear from getting wet on the over-pants or coat.

Now you’re ready for bed.  Lie back on your sleeping back and search for the opening.  When found, bunch your knees up under your chin and attempt to slide your legs into the opening, work out you have to unzip the bag , do this by lying down on the bag again, locate the zip and undo.

Try to climb in again.  Twist your legs and body to make the bag straighten out.  Make sure you can get feet to appropriate corners.  Realise the bag is upside down as the hood now covers your face.

Lie down and spin the bag around to make sure the hood is on the sleeping mat.

Now, find the zip and try to pull it up.  It won’t work and will need you to contort your body to use your other hand to hold the bag material still while zipping up.  You body temperature will have risen, you’ll be puffing slightly and wishing this bag wasn’t quite so efficient in retaining body heat.

Oh, where’s my pillow?

Once settled lie really still as your partner commences the same dance.

I lay down on my flat sleeping mat that at least gave some protection from the cold wet ground underneath the tent, only to discover that my sleeping bag has a draft too!

It rained all night.  The wind rattled the tent and the rain pitter-pattered on the roof.


Read Part 2 of the story and Part 3 that looks at 30 years of change!

Be sure to check out Michael’s gallery of images.

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Jun 14

handholding
Another mass shooting in the USA hardly seems surprising. Each one is horrific and I look at the senseless deaths and the grief of those who have lost their loved ones.

I am detached from the violence. I think the answer to end massacres like this is easy, putting it into action is proving somewhat harder for the USA.

The shooting in an Orlando gay night club is frightening for me because it specifically targeted the GLBTI community.

As I understand it, the murderer saw two men kissing and thought this an appropriate response.  That is simply beyond my comprehension.

Last night we had a minute’s silence at the Laird Hotel.  Michael and I went there for a karaoke night.  The pub is men only and it is crowded.  It was uncanny when the silence became real.  A noisy pub with loud music, singing, the sound of laughter, the loud conversations all ceased.

A poignant moment as the hush descends and my mind turns to the reality of what has happened.  A bunch of people, just like me, out for a good night’s entertainment.  Enjoying the company of our community, having a good time.  Then terror.  Tears roll down my cheeks.   I hug Michael in one of the few places where I feel safe to do so.  Now, for a moment that too seems dangerous, I have an irrational moment of angst.

In the sorting out that will follow my community will be sidelined.  Yet again the focus will shift away from the real reason for this and we will settle on the individual and hold him accountable.  Little focus will be on the root cause.  That root cause is what is loosely called holy texts.  The bible, the koran, the torah or whatever other ancient text.

In the version I grew up with it says this:

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.

As much as this is down played with the notion that somehow I can be saved, the real issue is not addressed.  There it is in everyday English, ‘abomination’ , ‘death’ and ‘blood’.  The catholic church builds on this to claim that I am intrinsically disordered.

Want to fix it?  Get over your ‘sacred’ text and strike out those phrases.  Its time for a rewrite – we can call it the expurgated version.  It’s not the first time it’s been re-written.

People are dying.  That needs to stop.

We all need to feel secure in our world.  You know what, I want to personalise this.  I need to feel secure and I don’t.

The Premier of Victoria says that Victoria is a safe place.  He has encouraged couples like Michael and me to hold hands in public.  I feel mostly safe, but yet here again is a reason that makes me nervous.  There are organisations, politicians and the media who continue to exist to undermine my security and continue to want me to climb back into the closet and lock the door.

I want to feel safe.

Thank you to all my family and friends who provide that security.

Just maybe love will win.

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Mar 23

I’m back from a quick break!  Michael and I spent a week at Ocean Grove.  A relatively quite seaside town on the Bellarine Peninsula.

For the first time in many years, I abandoned technology and took only my mobile phone.  No laptop or tablet within sight.  On my mobile I stopped all Facebook and Twitter alerts, removed the auto sync on my email and put it on Do Not Disturb for all incoming calls (I also used a natty feature to allow SMS and calls from family only)

When we went out somewhere I left my phone at home.  I remember the old days when you could only call people when they were actually at home.  And if you were away you’d have to call them on a public telephone, you even had to put coins into it.

In sharp focus too was the benefit of running two mobiles – I have one for work and one for private.  A different mobile for work is such a wonderful idea.

After about 10 days of living like this I quickly came to understand just how my communication methods have changed in the last 10 years.  Emails are constantly checked, every time a new one arrives my phone makes a noise.  Facebook notifications alert me to new postings in groups and from close friends with a green flashing light, breaking news from Twitter comes with my phone vibrating with excitement.

The other new and exciting advance is TV on demand.   Streaming TV means I can watch shows whenever I want.  I’m currently up to Season 3 of The West Wing, watched all the Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister episode, have Star Trek whenever I like and Faulty Towers is always worth watching for the 100th time.  Just as well I left my laptop and Google Chrome Cast at home too then, sitting watching TV all day when the weather is a bit bad is tempting…

That leaves me with three things, walking, listening to music, and reading (and listening to) books.   Sometimes I combined all three.  Although reading and walking will get you into trouble pretty quickly.

It was a bit disconcerting to start with to feel out of the loop with current news around marriage equality.  I quickly got over that.  There’s plenty of others to be outraged while I take a break!

On a fairly bleak morning, with light drizzle I pulled on my walking shoes, stuck my Akurba on my head, raincoat on my back, plugged the earphones in my ears, because that’s the most effective place to put them, and went for a 5 hour walk.

There’s a fantastic walking/cycling track that runs from Ocean Grove, around to Barwon Heads, then onto the Barwon Heads Bluff.  With the audio book “The Martians” by Andy Weir being read to me by R. C. Bray, I headed off on the beach track.  The day was overcast and drizzling.  I could hear the rain falling on the brim of my hat.  The water would gather and form a droplet that would sit on the brim just between my eyes until finally dropping off.  With the Southern Ocean on my left and the bushland on my right (and sometimes the road) I listened to the story of a man stranded on Mars and how he survived (yes, it’s fiction, I know).  While soaking in the fresh wet air and looking at the rolling waves, I was entertained and given the weather it felt like I was stranded in a far away place, the only human within 1000’s of kilometres.

It doesn’t take long to get to the iconic bridge that spans the Barwon River, as I walked across it I can see a cafe built right on the river bank, that looks like an ideal place to have my lunch.

Reluctantly I remove my Martian tale from my ears, take off my wet coat and hat at sit at a table that overlooks the mouth of the river and back across to the bridge I’ve just walked over.  A quick look at the menu of At the Heads I settle on “Ancient grain superfood salad”  with its kale, brocollini, pumpkin, pomegranate and more quinoa than you can poke a stick at.  Anything with kale in it must be good for you!  I take my time savouring the flavours of the salad with nothing to distract me but the wonderful view.

From here I continue around the walk track to the top of the bluff, taking plenty of time to stop and admire the view set out before me.  The river splits the land with its wide banks and snakes its way around before opening up to the ocean.  Small boats and a few people fishing are the only ones out, the rest are probably sitting in the cafe watching them.  The track takes me through the low scrub that grows along the coastal area.  It must be way too windy for anything significant to grow.  Small New Holland honey eaters, wattle birds and wrens flit about.  Along the road way I can see the local tradesman driving their utes and slowing down to look at the surf.  Later in the day they’ll descend upon the beaches with their surfboards for their afternoon surf.  All part of the coastal lifestyle.

I wander around the track and it leads me along the coast before crossing the road and skirts around the local golf course and back into Barwon Heads.  I then head back to the house, but this time I walk along the beach.  Slower going but very rewarding.

Michael and I did a 10k run one night, running along the coast, around the back of a caravan park and through a wonderfully green pasture, that actually turned out to be a golf course, luckily nobody was hitting their balls.  The other run I did was 7k, in the early morning with a fog sitting at ground level. I ran along the beach, the tide was out and just off at the edge of visibility I could see the waves crashing, it looked like the fog was rolling over on itself and then draining away to nothing.  A little eerie.

I read five books, three of then actually real paper books, reviews below.  I enjoyed getting up early in the morning, making a coffee in my little espresso coffee pot and sitting outside with a book for a couple of hours, nibbling on some fruit and making copious cups of delightfully black coffee.  Mixing it up sometimes, I’d spend time listening to music that I had dumped onto a memory stick, and some podcasts that I had downloaded.  As well as the audio book.

I enjoy the ABC’s Science Show, 99% Invisible, Serial, The Allusionist.  A big hit however was The Goon Show all the way from the 1950’s and on my memory stick.

Disconnecting from the world is at first daunting for someone who is well-connected and an active user of technology.  I enjoy having access to a world of information at my finger tips.  However, I see the real life benefit to me to remove the distraction of the brave new world.

Give it a go on your next break.

Books:

The Life of Every Party – Noel Tennison.  2014, Primrose Hall Publishing Group. (ebook here)

Noel is a personal friend and a man of many talents.  This is his second book.  The first called “My Spin in PR”.  This is an engaging tale of his life, funny, witty and an eye opener into the back story of Australian politics in Queensland and Victoria.  Noel has a history in the trade union movement, and from there launched himself into running political campaigns.  He tells the story of his early years in Brisbane growing up without his parents, and landing job after job.  It’s a nostalgic view of a different time of 1940’s & 50’s Australia.  He tells stories about his time as an illegal SP bookmaker.  Noel worked for many different political parties, he seems to have been able to separate his personal politics from his professional politics.  How else do you explain how this Queensland left-wing Shop Steward was able to take a contract with the Victorian Liberal party to get Dick Hamer elected, while also working for the National Party.  Knowing the author personally, and having spent many hours with Noel hearing some of these stories straight from the horses mouth,  I could see him waving his hands around, one with a glass of red as he warms to the story telling.

The Inimitable Mr Meek – Joan Luxemburg, 2015, Art Gallery of Ballarat (Exhibition page here)

James McKain Meek came to Australia from England in 1838.  He made his way to the Ballarat  and tried his hands at many different occupations.  What he is most known for is his intricate microwriting artwork.  He never really made it to the big time, so to speak, and his passion was his microwriting, even though he tried his hand at many things.   A well travelled man, who loved to gather knowledge and share it.  He died in poverty and is mostly forgotten.   I saw some of his work at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, and could have spent days just looking at it.  The book is full of examples of his work, some of it blown up so you can see the fine penmanship.  If you do find the book, make sure you’ve got a magnifying glass.

Alice in Wonderland including Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll, 1865 (ebook)

A classic tale that I haven’t read since my childhood.  However, as we were driving to Ocean Grove we listened to a Science Show from May 2015, it included a story about the book to celebrate it’s 150 anniversary.  The line that grabbed my attention was when the reporter, Stephanie Pradier, said this:

As a young woman with degrees in both physics and philosophy, re-reading Alice I have discovered so much more, and it means so much more. The play on words, the puns, the homophones, the mathematical inverses, the nonsensical logic hidden throughout. Alice is just as entertaining in my late-20s as she was in early childhood.

It’s worth listening to the story and picking the book up for another read.

Blink, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell, 2006, Penguin Books Ltd (ebook)

I had read one of his other books, Outliers – The Story of Success and enjoyed it.  Blink takes a different angle and talks about how we make decisions.  From a professional point of view, I found the book invaluable as it gave me plenty of information and detail about how I come to make decisions.  I understand that sometimes my ‘gut reaction’ is the right decision, however, it takes time for my brain to catch up with an initial impression.  I’m not suggesting you just go with your gut feelings, because sometimes we do get it wrong.  Having an understanding of the inner workings of a brain is helpful both professionally and personally.

The best read for the week was Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, a present from my daughter.  Dr. Seuss, 1948.  It tells the story of Thidwick and his horns.  Just go read it.

Thidwick

 

 

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Mar 20

It’s not every day you get to run under and over the Yarra River.

Run For the Kids is an annual event, and Michael and I signed up to run 16kms.

We arrived bright and early, before dawn, with 45,000 of our best mates.  Venus was high in the sky, shining like a gem.  The horizon over the MCG a golden hue.

IMAG0662

We did our warm up and joined everyone else in the Orange Zone to await our start time of 7.40 a.m.

I set my timer and tracker going, and with the sounds of Bruce Springsteen singing Dancing in the Dark I ran into the rising sun.  Michael and I started together, along with all of our other new best friends, but within moments he was lost from sight.  All of us bunched together heading in the same direction.  The sounds of thousands of shoes hitting the pavement.  The eager voices of both excitement and trepidation fill the air as we head off.

It doesn’t take too long before we head downwards into the Domain Tunnel – the road under the Yarra.  The sight of all the heads ahead of me bobbing up and down as they descend into the dark.  It’s really quite warm in there, at least 10° higher.   My tracker looses its GPS signal along the way.  Out the other side back into the bright daylight and on towards the Bolte Bridge.

But let tunnel… Hot and stinky #r4k #r4k2016 #runforthekids #melbourne

A photo posted by 🍾😘👯🍦💄🍑 Sarah Purches 🍑💄🍦👯😘🍾 (@seratori) on

A fairly gentle slope takes us up the bridge for a sight of Melbourne only ever seen from the confines of the car.  I love the view out over the Yarra as it winds its way into the bay.  There are people slowing down, walking up the bridge, taking in the scenic view, stopping to take the selfie.  All along the way, people are stopping, pointing their device at their head and snapping a photo.  It’s great that they’re enjoying the run and not in it for their personal best!

We wind our way down the other side, back along South Wharf and head back towards Alexandra Gardens, our starting, and now our finishing point. As we all head under the Arts Centre, a Flock of Seagulls sing in my ears I Ran.  I let out a little smirk as I listen to my last 80’s disco track as I round the corner and run through the finish line.  16 kilometres in 1 hour and 46 minutes.

That would be my longest run to date.

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Jan 31

I’ve spent the last 10 years reading widely the thoughts on what the christian right has to say about homosexuality, discrimination, marriage equality and the way they think the world should be.  Last year I pulled back, I unsubscribed from various blogs and newsletters and turned my back on the intolerance and hatred coming from those that would dearly love to return to the basic tenets of their religion, where they were right, homosexuals should be stoned to death and women are nothing more than their personal servants.  I can’t say I’ve missed them.

consequencesEvery now and then I like to check in, as I did with Lyle Shelton the head priest at the Australian Christian Lobby.  He does this sort of pretend radio spot and puts it up on the website, so I had a listen, as he was talking to David Van Gend, a bloke who thinks he has authority because he’s catholic and a doctor.

I’ve written about Shelton and Van Gend before.

I love to flex my mind and listen to their reasons why I shouldn’t be allowed to get married, here I’m unpacking some of what they have to say.   You’ll find the full audio and transcript linked at the bottom.

The blog is pretty long, sorry about that.

We start with Lyle doing the intro.

Ever since the Greens member from Melbourne Adam Bandt stood up in the Federal Parliament in December 2010 and moved a motion that MPs consult with their constituents about changing the definition of marriage. The so called gay marriage debate has been on in earnest.

It’s been happening since the Australian Government changed the marriage act in 2004, and it has been earnest, that bit is right.

It’s been five long years as a small minority of activist urged by a willing media have kept this issue alive in the public square and in politics, despite opinion polls seemingly showing majority support for the idea of changing the definition of marriage. The polls also show it’s a very low order issue with voters. It is well down the list of people’s priorities that they think politician should be focusing on.

By defining the group agitating for change as a ‘small minority’ is to suggest that because it’s a small group it’s unimportant, put that in with the idea that people think there are more important things to worry about is saying just how unimportant the whole debate is.  The easy answer is then to simply change it as most people think the change should happen, gets it off the table to focus on more important things.  It’s also important to remember that Lyle thinks that he his being denied his right to free speech, somehow the small minority is the only voice that is being heard by the willing media.

We should also note that the Australian Christian Lobby is a small minority, he is suggesting that they are somehow significant.

The same-sex political juggernaut has seemingly been unstoppable

Oh good, a small minority that is a political juggernaut!  Such power that doesn’t seem to have been successful yet.

…last week in London the same-sex political agenda suffered a significant setback. Anglican Primates from around the globe met to consider the issue because leaders of their church in the United States and Canada have accepted same-sex marriage in defiance of the bible’s teaching. Instead of endorsing the North American’s capitulation to the culture, the 27 of the 36 voting Primates voted to actually censure the North American Church for straying from Christian teaching on marriage.

Perhaps he could define how this is significant.  The anglicans did just what they are supposed to do.  Play by the rules of their religion.  You’ll note that this ‘significant setback’ has not got the United States or Canada governments rushing legislation through to comply with the Anglican Primates biblical teaching.  Nothing has changed really, just a bunch of men (are there any women here today?) in silly hats telling another bunch of men in silly hats that they can’t play with each other for a couple of years.

This is very, very significant. It just goes to show that with courage and conviction this agenda can be turned.

Umm…..

One man who has been showing great courage for many years in this battle is Toowoomba GP and president of the Australian Marriage Forum Doctor David Van Gend. Last year Dr. Van Gend had his doctor surgery spray painted with the word bigot and television advertisements that he produced refused broadcast by the tax payer funded SBS. Dr. Van Gend joins me on the line now, welcome to the program David.

Oh the man is a hero, someone sprayed bigot on his surgery and SBS refused to show his ads on the tele.  Give the man a medal!

Lyle Shelton: David, this meeting of Anglican Primates. I made much of that in that in the introduction because I do think it’s significant that when people stand up, this agenda can be resisted and can be turned around and that’s something you’ve been doing in your work and private capacity as president of the Australian Marriage Forum.

Doctor David Van Gend: I think so because a lot of people understand that there’s something enormous at stake with marriage.

Seriously?  Like what, the end of civilisation perhaps.  Everyone agrees that Ireland is heading towards full destruction, New Zealanders are all turning gay and that the US has found the hand-basket and now slipping on the slope to the pits of hell.

It’s not a religious issue so much with Anglican or with people have every right to weigh in on this.

The anglicans seem to think it’s about what’s in the bible, that sounds like a religious issue.  But Van Gend is right, it’s not a religious issue, it’s a civil issue and people from everywhere are weighing in on it.

It’s about the truth of nature that marriage is a man, woman thing in our culture because it’s a male, female thing in nature.

This is just a nonsense.  There is no marriage in nature, when was the last time you saw a moose priest preside over the marriage of a buck and a doe?  Do they sign their certificate with the horns?  Marriage is a human construct, probably an extension of the males desire to lord it over the woman and be the boss.

It only exists doesn’t it because male, female relations typically have been momentous consequence of creating children and children need the love and protection of a mother and father.

So now it only exists because of children? Before it was a natural thing.  Just a reminder, there is actually nothing momentous about having children.  Have a look around, the whole of our biodiversity rests on our ability to reproduce.  It’s pretty commonplace and happens all the time without marriage.  While we’re talking about love and protection, sadly that’s not actually the case.  This is a fanciful notion that once married you live happily ever after.  We all know the reality of filicide, familicide, mariticide and suicide.

They need the identity and the belonging that goes with being bound to their real mum and dad. That is what marriage achieves. For every child marriage gives them a mum and dad and so-called homosexual marriage makes that impossible. Impossible and that’s the injustice mate.

Mate, listen up, there are plenty of kids out there growing up in families with same-sex parents.  They actually don’t have identity issues.   The injustice is trying to make the world fit your flawed model.  Families are made up of many different types of formations, your ideal is just one of many.  Each have their own merit, none is the best.

Lyle Shelton: Now. This isn’t about being anti any people you just very eloquently said what marriage is and why it’s a justice issue for children

Good Lyle, it’s not about being anti-gay, despite the fact that Van Gend just said gay people can’t really have children.  It’s impossible.

but you’re a doctor and you see people from all walks of life including same-sex attracted people and your advocacy for marriage is not in any way motivated by any animus towards people.

He’s a doctor!  He sees gay people!  He has no animus towards people like me.  Keep that in mind.  The good doctor from Toowoomba sees gay people.  And note this sideways move now, he moves to talking about sexuality and connecting people’s same-sex attraction with marriage.  The two really aren’t connected.

Doctor David Van Gend: I don’t think it’s possible, yeah, I don’t think it’s possible to know especially young gay people but older ones too, I don’t think it’s possible to know them and not just want to put your arm around them and say, “Look, it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay.” Something’s happened, something’s happened to put you in a position of, to these patients I see, of considerable suffering and anguish. They don’t know where this attraction came from. They don’t know why they go it, they don’t know what to do with it and a number of them have a conflict between those feelings and their own convictions about what marriage and parenting and family is. This is sets up a terrible tension and I think that tension can be resolved. I think we need to get to a very clear position in Australia. Where gay couples have all the liberties and all the equality of any other couple, any other couples married or defacto that as you know Lyle, they already have all that liberty and called.

Where to even start.  Now the GP is a psychologist, I’d like to see his qualifications. He wants to hug gay people and tell them everything is ok, as if that will somehow help people come to terms with their sexuality.  People like me, he suggests, don’t know where this attraction comes from, but that’s ok, because he has the answers.  It’s because something has happened to put me in this position, therefore it can un-happen.  Oh, and he sees a lot to these patients, a lot!  In Toowoomba!  They have considerable suffering and anguish.  Sounds like they’re all rushing to his surgery because it’s got bigot painted on the outside.  But that’s ok, he can resolve the tension, no doubt by telling you that god loves you. attaching electrodes to your testicles and zapping you with 1,000 volts while showing you pictures of an erect penis.   Oh, and that’s ok, because when you go back to the real world, you’ll be treated like everyone else because you have all the liberties and the equality you’ll ever need, just like real couples.  On one hand we are suffering and in anguish, on the other hand we are treated equally.

Lyle Shelton: That’s right 85 laws were changed in 2008 and state governments have allowed relationship registers. There is no discrimination in Australian law against same-sex couples.

You know Lyle, when you tell someone that they can’t do something because of who they are, that’s called discrimination.  You can get married to the partner of your choice (at least, I’m assuming it was a choice), but I can’t.

Doctor David Van Gend: Perfect. That’s it, they have full relationship equality and that is what a liberal society should achieve.

Perfect?  I don’t have full relationship equality.  I can’t get married.

That’s where we’re at but you’ve got to also let children have the one institution in society that exists for them. Marriage exists for children, they’ve build around mother and child.

Rubbish.  Marriage is between two adults, has nothing to do with children.  This is really easy to test, plenty of kids are born without their parents being married, plenty of them live with one parent, plenty with same-sex parents, plenty of them without parents.  Marriage exists because we want it, not because we have kids.

The very word matrimony is broken into two words, mother and the state of. It’s the state of motherhood is matrimony and marriage exist to serve the interest of mother and child. It serves to bind men, feral by nature men to their mate so that both of them can be bound to their child. That’s the whole purpose of it and gay people get this.

Excuse me, I’m not feral.  I don’t need to be bound to a woman to be tamed.  I’m not sure how it works in your part of the world.  And the binding doesn’t work, men and women still have sex outside their marriage, they still have children outside their marriage, and they still break up.

You’re going to listen to Christopher Pearson used to write about marriage needing to be a to man, woman thing, or Dolce & Gabbana, the great fashion gays what they said about it or Doug Mannering, all these other serious principal gay guys who say we got what we want. We got the liberty and benefits that we want. Don’t take marriage away from children, it’s their only structural institutional possession and that’s where we’re at Lyle. We can all get to this point of saying, yes, yes our fellow citizen who are same-sex attracted must have all the liberty and equality of any of us, and they do. Now that is enough do not let them usurp the one child sense of institution that there is and remake it in their own adult centered image. That is an injustice against child and that’s where we draw the line.

Ho hum.  A few gay people don’t want to get married, or have the jesus bug, therefore all gay people should listen to them.  In their minds this also works for chrisitans.  David and Lyle are good mates and christian, therefore the whole world should agree with them because they have jesus and they are right.  Between them they have worked out where to draw the line and you’re not allowed to cross their line because… well because jesus!

Doctor David Van Gend: It breaks all marriages because I was sitting in America couple of months after their definition of marriage was changed. I looked around this restaurant. None of those married men and women, none of them have the same marriage they used to have because marriage has now become purely an adult romantic affair. A relationship between any two adults of any sex was no further meaning than that.

This sort of makes my brain hurt.  It’s a huge assumption to say that everyone in the restaurant is married, and if they are, that they are sitting at the table with their spouse.  So because the US now has marriage equality, people already married don’t have the same marriage as before because same-sex marriages exist?  SMH (that’s shaking my head)  And…. their marriages have now become purely adult romantic affairs!  So before it was what?  A child’s romantic affair?  No romance at all?  Marriage is not romantic?  Well at least us gay guys have put the romance back into marriage, you’ve gotta be happy with that.

What they signed up to is marriage being the vocation of a man and woman given by nature itself to undertake the great task of creating a home, a new family and new generation. That great vocation, that great honorable life task has been degraded into a mere romantic association between any two people.

This is it!  The world is ending!  Straight people lives have been wrecked by two lesbians calling each other wife and setting up  a home and a family and a new generation!  You should see my face right now, I’m simply horrified!  I had no idea that getting married to Michael in New Zealand would change the world so much.  Why didn’t someone stop me?  (I’ll leave the answer hanging…)

So that’s gone but more importantly Lyle, the relationship between all parents and all children is redefined when you change marriage as the great lawyer Margaret Somerville pointed out when Canada brought in gay marriage. They changed all of the legal reference to natural parents and made it legal parents. Now, a natural parent is a fundamental, natural relationship which government has to respect, has to stand back and let natural parenthood prevail but once you abolish natural parents because you got rid of natural marriage. All parents and all children are related by a government definition which the government can damn well change whenever it likes. It’s a legal fiction and no parents and children any longer have a natural relationship. They have a legal fiction for a relationship. Be like profound, you’re playing into the hands of big government. People have no idea …

Adoption.  That’s where the old parents have their rights removed and have them assigned to another parent(s)  You know, the government damn well changed the legal fiction.  The relationship is established by law.  Has nothing to do with nature really.  If want you are saying, Davo, is that every child has a mother and a father, then you are right.   What happens after that, nature doesn’t give a rats arse about.

Doctor David Van Gend: …It was an article in Courier Mail and they had for and against forum. I was asked to write the case against gay marriage and someone else wrote the other one. … this is what I’d said, I’d said, yes, yes, it is discrimination to prohibit the marriage of two men but it is a far worse case of discrimination to allow this and thereby abolish a mother from the life of any child created within that marriage or words that effect….Of course we discriminate against two men by saying they can’t marry because they can’t.

Remember, they told us that there is no discrimination.  Remember that they have no animus towards gay people.  Remember, Michael and I are married, even though he says we can’t.  We have a marriage certificate with both our names on it.

It’s not possible because marriage is by definition a natural institution of male and female

It is possible, nature doesn’t define marriage, humans do.

but more importantly they can’t because that would impose a far worse injustice on children who will be created by surrogacy or adoption or whatever under this new institution not by tragic circumstance law but this kids won’t miss out on their mum because their mum’s died or there’s a divorce. These kids in the future will miss out on their mother because an act of parliament today decreed that they will miss out.

I have two children, neither of them have missed out on their mother or father.  Michael and I will not have children, therefore we can get married.  Or wait, nobody else can have children because Michael and I are married, but if a straight couple do have children one of them must leave so the other can marry a person of the same-sex.  And this is ok, because it’s not tragic.  At least that’s what I think he is saying.

Doctor David Van Gend: Actually Lyle, from a wide reading into the activist literature on gay marriage and gay issue.

He reads widely apparently, he reads activist literature on gay marriage.  Excellent, it’s good to have a well-rounded view.

That’s actually the main objective. Gay thinkers, gay activist don’t really care about gay marriage, they actually despise it.

This is right, however, reading as widely as you do Davey, you surely understand that this is but one of many, many views.

They always have despised marriage. It’s a bourgeois, hetero normative, slightly religious patriarchal repressive thing that cramps your gay style.

I have never despised marriage, I’m gay, I’m an activist.  However, I understand that Julia Gillard, who is a woman, not gay and probably not an activist had some thoughts about marriage and it being repressive.  Perhaps I’m not reading widely enough.

They despise it, they always have but in the mid ‘90s, they realize that there’s this new thing in town called antidiscrimination law

Well no, I think you need to wind it back about 20 years when gay people starting saying stop beating us up, stop putting us in jail.  Stop telling us who to have sex with.

and if you normalise homosexual marriage in law, you have normalise homosexual behaviour in all its manifestations with the force of the law and that gives you two things.

Homosexuality has been normalised as you say.  It’s actually not considered abnormal for people to be not straight.  Remember that he has no animus towards gay people.

It gives you control of the curriculum so that all children with gay marriage bought in. All children must be taught the homosexual behavior is no different to the relationship of their mum and dad. That it is normal and natural and right and if parents disagree to bad it’s the law of the land.

Children must be taught?  The sub-text of this is that he still considers homosexuality unnatural, and something to be ashamed of.   Just below the surface here is that vague notion that gay people are recruiting children to be gay.

You’ve missed your chance, it’s gone and the second thing is they the big stick of antidiscrimination law to beat the churches and other conscientiousness objectors into submission and that is what they are trying to do now but we can resist it now. We will not be able to resist it when gay marriage is the law of the land and they know that and this is why they want it.

And here in lies the real reason, at the end of the interview.  He really doesn’t want gay people telling him what to believe.  He really wants to maintain his right to discriminate against whomever he wants.  He sincerely believes that once gay people are allowed to get married that they will set about dismantling society and force him to get gay married, or something.  While he admits that marriage equality is inevitable, he is attempting to frighten people into thinking that their world will change so much that civilisation itself will come crushing down, and the people who are not currently being discriminated against and those that he bares no animus towards will be fully responsible.

Despite what these two white men with their wealth and privilege say, this is about power and control.  This is about their rank as men, head of the household, rulers of the world.  It’s bad enough that women want to do things other than be mothers and dedicated wives, now they have to contend with same-sex couples wanting to get married.  And when they go back to the basis of this power and privilege – the bible – it says that homosexuality is an abomination, that those that participate in it are worthy of death, women should not be heard, that there is no divorce and children should be seen only.  This is the world they want, where they are the centre of the power, so the small town doctor and the pretend high priest are treated as demi-gods.

PolicitalSpotTranscript-Jan2016

Part 1

Part 2

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Jan 16

Michael and I were interviewed in December by William Brougham about our activism.  I always enjoy an opportunity to express my thoughts about where things are with equal rights and the GLBTI community.

William has a good selection of interviews on his YouTube Channel that is worth working your way through.  Many though provoking topics from a range of people.

Be sure to watch the whole 28 minutes here, for me I think one of the key points is the topic of the day, a plebiscite.  This is Malcolm Turnbull’s deal with the right from the Abbott Regime.  He seems determined to leave Abbott’s ill thought out concept in place at present, I think the whole notion is quite appalling and in the interview I explain why.

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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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