Last night, we fell victim to a dastardly criminal mastermind, and much to my personal embarrassment and shame, I have to confess it wasn’t the first time either. Rather, it was a repeat offender…a “recidivist” as the convict records would’ve reported in utter disgust. Wonder how many lashings dear Rosie would’ve received back in the day for thieving half the freshly baked coconut cake off the kitchen bench last night? Instead, we just banished her outside. She was lucky she wasn’t dispatched up the hill to the RSPCA, which in this case should be renamed the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Humans.
However, this raises another curly question…forgiveness.
Should we forgive and forget? Turn the other cheek? Let Rosie steal tonight’s replacement cake? Or, should we inflict the greatest of punishments? Make Rosie an outside dog?
Meanwhile, Rosie is parked right at my feet, which is rather unusual. Should I interpret this as contrition? That she’s actually sorry? Indeed, she’s now licking my ear and there’s no ball in sight. If it were any other dog, and I’d have no doubt. However, Rosie is her own dog. She bows to no master, and refuses to come when called. I find it hard to believe Rosie has developed a conscience overnight, but stranger things have happened.
Meanwhile, we have a teenager at large tonight and dubious conduct might not just be the province of the canines in the house. With all this focus on covid and the thieving canine , have I been overlooking the biggest elephant in the room of all?
Parents of teens on New Year’s Eve, stand on guard!
Wandering round the blogging traps lately, the last two years have taken their toll and there’s no real confidence that things are going to be any better in the New Year. We’re on a journey of uncertainty, and looking into more of a snow globe scenario than into a crystal ball. However, that doesn’t mean it’s all hopeless. Or, that the last two years have been all bad, and covid hasn’t been a blessing – as well as a curse. That there hasn’t been joy. Indeed, as pollution cut back, our natural world even improved .
However, so many are cut off from those we love, and that is truly hard. So many of our young people, have had the rug pulled out from beneath them. My kids are caught up in that, and their friends.
It’s important to acknowledge these struggles. Not just keep going without allowing ourselves to grieve, withdraw, rethink. It’s perhaps a harder route, but we’ll be stronger and wiser for it – and a much better friend.
Anyway, these songs start off with a bit of a good riddance to 2021, and bring some hope and encouragement for the New Year.
So, here goes, and please let me know if you have any suggestions:
1) Let It Go – Frozen
2) I’m Still Standing Elton John
3) Standing With You – Guy Sebastian
4) The Prayer By Andrea Bocelli performed by Guy Sebastian and Bella Taylor-Smith
5) You Raise Me Up
6) The Beatles – With A Little Help From My Friends
7) Bruno Mars – You Can Count On Me
8) Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Somewhere Over the Rainbow
9) Louis Armstrong – When You Wish Upon A Star.
10) Louis Armstrong – What A Wonderful World
So, as we continue to grapple with the puzzle that’s life on Earth, I’ll not only wish you and yours the conventional “New Year”. I’ll also pray that God’s richest blessings will be with you, and if your hearts are hurting, weary or confused (which is certainly where I put myself right now), that you will experience His peace which surpasses our understanding, and has the power to renew even when all seems lost.
Thanks to Wee-sis, she and I finally made it to Islay together for the first time since we left the island in 1961. My last visit to the island where we were born was over twenty years ago although Wee-sis has been going more recently.
I spent the weeks before we went terrified I wouldn’t be able to go because cancer cells would suddenly multiply or my throat would stop working or something. In fact the worst that happened was a filling coming out (M&S salted caramel Florentines – delicious but not recommended if you have dodgy fillings). I was able to get an appointment to have a temporary filling put in.
The after our return I had an appointment to meet with the oncologist and tried, mostly successfully, to put it out of my mind and not dwell too much on the decision I knew I had to make…
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.
After providing a brief sketch of the state of play during Christmas 1921 in my previous post, we’re now going to spend Christmas 1921 with famous English-Australian author, Ethel Turner, whose first novel: Seven Little Australians placed her up on the international literary stage. However, she also wrote 39 other novels, and of more relevance to us, she edited a string of children’s pages in various publications, and it’s here where we’ll be touching down.
Born on the 24th January, 1870, Ethel Turner was 51 years old in 1921, and a year younger than I am now. She was married to Judge Herbert Curlewis and they were living at their home in Avenel, Mosman, Sydney although they spent Christmas 1921 at Palm Beach. Daughter, Jean, was twenty-three, and son Adrian was twenty and studying Law at Sydney University. By Christmas 1921, Ethel Turner had had 22 of her handwritten novels published, and King Anne was her offering for the year. She was famous.
However, for Ethel Turner it wasn’t the empty fame of celebrity. Rather, there was a strong sense of purpose and a desire to make a difference, and do good. While I can be dangerous to interpret Three Little Maids as being purely biographical, there is also much truth and Dolly (who is said to be Ethel) made this statement about becoming an author: “One night…I felt I must do something. I felt I couldn’t just go on doing little things always,-staying at home and helping, and going to dances, and playing tennis. I used to think I should like to go as a missionary, – not to China, of course, only somewhere here where people were very poor and miserable. But that night I didn’t seem to want anything but to write books that people would love to read, and that might do them some good.”
This aspect of Ethel Turner is often lost….the visionary, the world-changer, the woman who had experienced financial hardship as a child and relocated across the world for a better life, worked hard and overcome. She’s simply viewed through the lens of Seven Little Australians as though she were a one book wonder. However, it appears that the massive difference she made to the lives of children through the series of children’s pages she edited has been forgotten, along with how she nurtured the artistic and literary abilities of younger generations through these pages. She was such an inspiration!
The trouble is that it’s very hard to condense an inspiration into a few lines or words to satisfy those who don’t want to immerse themselves more fully into the longer story. However, in this instance, can I caution you to sit down. Make yourself a cup of tea, and in the words of the great Molly Meldrum: “Do yourselves a favour!”
We’re going to pick up with Ethel Turner on the 20th November 1921. Sunbeams had only been launched on the 9th October, 1921, and just over a month old, and still in the nest. Yet, that didn’t stop Ethel Turner from launching an ambitious plan to make a difference that Christmas:
“FROM A CHAIR IN THE SUN
ABOUT SUN FAIRIES
Dear Young People, — One of the many tastes we have in common, you and I, Is our love for conjuring tricks. Here is one I particularly want you to try. Take a child with the corners of its mouth right down and its eyes running over with tears (there are any amount of them in the hospitals and crowded back streets, alas). Go up close to it, and with a quick sleight-of-hand slip into its fingers a tiny doll as pretty as a fairy. In less than half a minute the eyes will dry and the mouth corners go up. This trick has never been known to fail. So now then, let us do it together. Your part is to buy a tiny celluloid doll or kewpie, dross it in something very fairylike — gay and pretty, or comical as an elf — put it in a, tiny box, and post or hand it in to “Sunbeams.” My part will be to find the children in the hospitals and back streets about Christmas time. I shall also examine the dolls carefully — we will call them Sun Fairies— and give three prizes of half-a-crown each to the three most attractive ones, and six “Sun” honor cards. You need send no coupon with this competition, as the doll will cost you anything from twopence to sixpence. Send December 1st.
Ethel Turner received an enthusiastic and touching response to her call for contributions. On the 11th December, 1921, she wrote:
“THE SUN FAIRIES
ROOMFUL OF WONDERFUL DOLLS DAME MARGARET DAVIDSON’S WINNERS
The response to the “Sun” fairies competition was splendid and many little “Sunbeams” will be cheered by the really wonderful little dolls sent in… It was a lovely spirit which prompted the competitors to send in the dolls — they were not concerned with winning prizes, but with doing something with their own hands which would give pleasure to children, to whom dainty dolls are a rare and precious luxury. Many of the children marked their entries: “Not sent in for a prize,” and pinned to almost every doll was a pretty little greeting to the recipient. They sat about all over the floor and the chairs and tables rather impatient in their boxes, just as trapped butterflies might be; they were eager to be gone upon their task of carrying sunshine. They were dressed in silk and spangles, in little frilly skirts of lace, in bridal gowns; in elf costumes; there were little mother fairies with tiny children around them, father fairies, fussy and important, fairies with opera cloaks on, and carrying bags; baby fairies, red riding hood fairies; one or two arrived with their beds and bedding, a few with suit-cases for the week-end and complete wardrobes. Wendy came, together with John and Michael, and Peter Pan. And wands! There were enough wands to have enchanted all Sydney and turned it to happy ways had they been held up. And no one, not any one, had forgotten the pretty little card with “From one Sunbeam to another” and other affectionate greetings. Dorothy Makin’s box of dolls, which won first prize, lacked only the bride groom to make the wedding party complete. But then it is so difficult to make a fairy-like creature of a man who should be dressed strictly in black. It was a rainbow wedding, and the bride chose ivory satin for her gown. She also had an overskirt of lace, and trimmed her whole frock with pearls. She wore the usual wreath and veil, and carried a bouquet of white blossoms and a fan. Her maids were frocked in rose, mauve, coral and eau-de-nil silk net, and wore quaint filets round their heads. Just by way of being different, they all carried fans instead of bouquets. Five little fairies, in five little boxes with five little Christmas cards, were sent by Betty Blake, who was second prize-winner. Betty dressed her fairies in white lace, showing beribboned petticoats. Glinting beads of gold and silver shone like spangles on the little dolls which will gladden the hearts of sick children on Christmas Day. Betty Grimm’s Sunbeamer was dressed in her party frock of rose-colored silk net, and she carried a lovely curling white feather fan. (But even fairies cannot live in party frocks all the time, so Betty sent along a box full of neatly made clothes for everyday wear, and did not forgot even a tiny tin of powder to powder her nose.”
Of course, this touching story of generosity and human kindness is not complete without hearing about the sun fairies final destinations:
“THE SUN FAIRIES: How The Kiddies Loved Them”
I know that all of you who made a “Sun” Fairy will be delighted to hear how much joy they gave to the children who received them. Here are two letters which tell you all about them:–A.I.F. Wives and Children’s Holiday Association.
Furlough House, Narrabeen. Dear Sunbeams, — The dear little sun fairies arrived quite safely, and as fresh as when’ they left the designers’ hands. I am sure if the little donors could have seen the pleasure they afforded when received on Christmas Day they would be delighted to know they were indeed sun fairies in so much as they made radiance shine from each receiver’s face. With all good wishes to the Sunbeams from all the soldiers’ children at “Furlough House,” Yours sincerely, Ruby Fowle, Matron The second letter comes from Mrs Lyster Ormsby, who in the crowded streets of the city has for years sought to bring joy and sunlight into the lives of the little children there. Soup Kitchen for Little Children, 40 Burton-street, Darlinghurst. Dear Little Sunbeams,— I want to thank you for the dainty little ladies, fairies and babies the came to the Soup Kitchen during Christmas week. They came all neatly tucked away in a box, and was told they were to be given to some of the poor little’ girlies that I know as presents from “one Sunbeam to another. Well it happened that some of my little pals were hanging round when I unpacked your box and if you could have heard the “O-o-ohs” and “A-a-ahs” of admiration that came from them as I drew each dolly out of the box, you would have felt that you had sent a real sunbeam along. I gave your dollies away in many different quarters, and I feel sure you will be glad to know that each and every one received a warm and loving welcome from the new mistress. Among my little Soup Kitchen Girlies was one who has just left school and so felt too big for a doll. She always has a real live baby in mind-but still I could tell by the look in her face that she was just envying all the smaller girls; so I picked out a tiny kewpie doll that had been so prettily dressed in baby frills and I said: “I know you’re fourteen, Alice, and too big for dolls — (she thinks she is, you know) – but this is a Kewpie for luck and it goes on the rail of your bedstead. Would you like it?” She just loved it, and rushed off home to put it on her bed right away, “Good-bye, little Sunbeams, and a happy new year to you all from Inys Ormsby.”
And now we’ll back peddle just a little, and read Ethel Turner’s Christmas Day letter to her Sunbeamers:
A VERY MERRY XMAS FROM A CHAIR IN THE SUN
Dear Young People,—
Do you know Anna? What Anna? Merry Christmas anna happy New Year. Yes, I know this is the seventh time you have been asked this same joke, but that is the best about Christmas Day, isn’t it, there is such a rosy, kindly light everywhere, that you are ready to smile seven times at anything and everything. I hope that you are, every one of you, as happy as larks to-day: the boy with the sixpenny humming top, as well as the one with the expensive aeroplane. Happiness, real lark-like happiness, isn’t a thing to be bought with money; it is a thing right inside you. There is really an amazing amount of it lying about free in a sunshiny land like this; believe me it is not shut up in those expensive toyshops, pleasant though those places are. Happiness is just a little light, bubbling thing that you make for yourself, just as the lark makes its song. Good-bye till next week. Do you know Anna?
I hope you have been each to absorb each of these letters word by word, and truly absorb an Ethel Turner who might appear idealistic, utopian and off with the very fairies she was passing on. However, aim low has never had much of a ring to it, has it?!! I personally found her sentiments so heart-warming and encouraging, and way too good to be lost for eternity in a bunch of newsprint.
So, I hope you and yours are managing to find some of that lark-like happiness this Christmas and carry it into the New Year as well.
 Ethel Turner, `Three Little Maids, pp 302-303.
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 20 November 1921, page 2
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 11 December 1921, page 2
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 15 January 1922, page 2
As many of you will be aware, I’ve been researching WWI rather intensively for the last two years in what has emerged as a series of research projects. Those of you who also research in a more intuitive fashion and allow yourselves the luxury of pursuing all those twists and turns others might dismiss as “distractions”, “rabbit warrens”, will be familiar with the joy of discovering new worlds and perspectives you never knew existed, rather than simply proving your own point. It was this seemingly random fossicking, which led me to Australian author, Ethel Turner from an entirely different angle finding a message of hope, human kindness and generosity we sorely need today.
To do this story justice, I’m going to straddle the story of Christmas 1921 across both my blogs here at Beyond the Flow, and over at Tea With Ethel Turner. Here I’ll provide more of the social and political background and context to Christmas 1921 and why it was special while over at Tea With Ethel Turner, I’ll share how she made a difference to Christmas 1921 with her band of Sunbeamers.
While the 1920s is often portrayed as a time of unrestrained celebration after the horrors of WWI, the reality was much more complex and certainly Christmas 1921 was a time of very mixed fortunes. Sure, the war was over. The Spanish Flu was also officially over as well. On the 6th December, 1921 the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed seeing independence for Southern Ireland and ending the Anglo-Irish War. The Washington Conference was also promising peace in the Pacific. Yet, following his speech on the 20th December, 1921 Mr Stanley Bruce (the 8th Prime Minister from 1923 to 1929) who was representing Australia at the League of Nations, was described as “a supreme pessimist: sees nothing but trouble” after these dire warnings :
“SYDNEY, Tuesday.—Mr. S. M. Bruce, speaking at a National Club luncheon, remarked: “When one comes, back to Australia one is a little horrified to see what is going on. The whole of Europe to-day is struggling in a morass and it is doubtful whether it will ever get out. It is recognised if nothing is done to restore the economic stability of the world a wave of Bolshevism may spread all over the earth. We in Australia have a land where everything is good. Our country is the soundest of any in the world, but it is going to be faced, with the same troubles as the rest. We do not seem to have recognised this. We are only squabbling amongst ourselves.1.”
Gee, does this sound strangely familiar?
Anyway, here’s “Christmas 1921” which was published in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph on Christmas Eve, 1921:
For many thousands of people throughout the world this must be a “black” Christmas. Almost every country is suffering from the effects of those five years of war, during which production was stopped and the savings of decades were scattered. Thousands of families to-day will be clouded with anxiety because there is no longer a market for the goods the production of which has furnished them with a means of living and their breadwinners with employment. To other families Christmas brings back memories which, though they are colored with pride, arc memories of sadness. It seems impossible that in the lifetime of this generation Christmas shall ever be a season of unmixed rejoicing, except for the children, whose festival it is. Yet throughout the world it will be recognised that the Christmas of 1921 is more in accord with those universal ideals which it connotes than any that we have known for many years past. To-morrow men can take part in a festival of peace and hope without any reflection on the vanity of human effort or the insincerity of all professions of faith. The year has been one in which a genuine and fruitful attempt has been made to banish the dangers of war. For the first time for a hundred years the statesmen of the world have given a practical demonstration of their faith that peace should be the goal of their policy and is the greatest .of human blessings. The delegates to Washington have set aside personal ambition and national avarice in their work for the good of mankind. The delegates from Great Britain and Ireland have agreed that each nation may have failed to appreciate the point of view of the other, and that each must make sacrifices of its own beliefs for the sake of peace. And when these public achievements are noticed men will be driven back to remember the many private acts of beneficence that have been carried out during the past three years. “There is a budding to-morrow in midnight.” It may pass unnoticed while men are oppressed by the surrounding darkness, but it should be acknowledged when we have at last arrived at the dawning of an era of peace and goodwill. In almost every epoch there are lamentations at the incurable selfishness of mankind or at the degeneration of the human species, and invariably they are answered by convincing examples. Before the war we were told that the age of self sacrifice had passed, that men had degenerated physically and morally, that the virtue of patriotism would be practised only by barbarians. The last months of 1914 answered, that reproach. Never was there a clearer response to the appeal of idealism, never did men come forward more spontaneously to avenge and to rescue the oppressed. Every day of the blackest period of human history was illuminated by some act of devotion, when men sacrificed themselves for one another or for their cause, when the motive of self interest, conspicuous though it was, was less frequently exemplified than any other. Since attention has been concentrated on the struggle for the spoils of victory the nobility of hundreds of thousands of obscure lives has been forgotten, but to-day it can be remembered and can be acknowledged as of the same quality as the self-sacrifice which has been placed at the service of the famine-stricken peoples of Europe. To-day we may rejoice in the efforts made by statesmen to establish peace among nations. But while these same states men were manoeuvring other work more urgently and immediately needed was being carried on with even less regard for international boundaries. In Austria and Ger many citizens of the victorious countries have given their money and their services for the sake Of their former enemies. The war, though it has founded much hatred and bitterness, has produced the clearest practical recognition of the brotherhood of man. The period In which lamentations at the folly and avarice of men have be on most frequent, and apparently most abundantly justified, has again seen them answered by the most indisputable examples. “Man, what is this? And why are thou despairing? God shall forgive thee all but thy despair?” The same question might have been asked, and the same comment made at any time during the period which is now coming to an end. At no time has there been so much self-sacrifice; at no time have individual citizens been so ready to spend their lives in the service of their fellowmen, and, if necessary, to ignore the boundaries ‘between one nation and another. Was there ever a more heroic instance of such devotion than that given by Sir Arthur Pearson, who “turned his necessity to glorious gain,” and set himself to brighten-the lives of others stricken with the same infirmity as himself? In this last period the work of the individual has been -in contrast with that of the statesmen; but we cannot afford to forget it now that the statesmen are giving themselves to the furtherance of peace and concord. Rather the inference should be that the impulse towards peace and brotherhood is never dead, but moves forward continually until statesmen are compelled to reduce into the form of a. public document’ the desire of hundreds of thousands of their constituents. We cannot say to-day that these efforts towards pacification have been completely successful. Both at Washington – and In Ireland there are elements so blinded by tradition that they cannot obey the force of reason. But all the ‘omens for peace are good. Not since the reign of – Caesar Augustus have there been so many signs of unity among the nations that make up the civilised world, and not since the Great War ended has there been so good a prospect that the men who fought there will reap the fruit of their sacrifices In the elimination of one of the chief causes of future wars.”2.
I can’t help looking back at these precious people of Christmas 1921 with their varying degrees of pessimism and hope, but still probably largely believing something could be done. That the Wall Street Crash, The Depression along and WWII weren’t just around the corner, although the writing was already on the wall.
Those babies born at Christmas 1921 would be 19 years old in 1939. It is unthinkable that so many of them went on to fight on the very same battlefields as their fathers, and that Australia’s sons would also find themselves fighting the Japanese and defending home soil. Our women weren’t immune either.
Yikes, sometimes time travel isn’t much fun after all, is it?!!
Meanwhile, while I’m tapping away here about Christmas 1921, we’re watching the movie: Don’t Look Up. A comet is threatening to collide with the Earth and the response of Americans is let’s just say “a concern”. I know that while we’re focusing on covid, climate change is our big threat and most of us don’t see it coming either. I hope this movie isn’t too prophetic!
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this. Hauled up at home on a wet and overcast day with covid spreading like wildfire all around us, I feel like I’m talking to myself. However, I know you’re out there and I’d love to hear from you!
Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 – 1954), Wednesday 21 December 1921, page 13
Tonight, a friend tagged me on a photo of Badde Manors Cafe in Sydney’s Glebe, saying she thought I used to hang out there. I was pretty impressed by her memory, because each of us used to go there in our past lives before our paths crossed with pre-schoolers and babies at playgroup. However, Badde Manors was that sort of place. It left an indelible impression.
Anyone who has frequented Badde Manors has their own story to tell. I first went there at the start of 1989 when my best friend from school and I moved into a two storey terrace house on Abercrombie Street, Chippendale. It was right on the pedestrian crossing on the rat run from Redfern Station into campus, and we could sit up on the balcony in varying stages of sobriety, and prospective and unrequited requited love and call out to friends passing by. It was like living at the very centre of the universe and being surrounded by friends, life and opportunity. Indeed, across the road was the Reasonably Good Cafe where I used to do poetry readings back in the day. It was all there right at our fingertips…as I said, back in the day.
It was our flatmate, Michael, who introduced us to Badde Manors. He was a fair bit older than us, and much more suave, sophisticated and urbane. My friend hailed from the Northern Beaches, and I hailed from the North Shore, which might have had prestige but was sadly lacking in street cred and that’s what mattered more. I was probably doing my usual thing and wearing stripes and Country Road. I wasn’t conservative on the inside, but as we all know, it’s the outside which matters.
Anyway, I was probably awkward, and although I was going into second year and was no longer a “fresher” I still had much to discover in the world, and that included Badde Manors. Michael introduced us one Saturday morning as we went to the markets and Macro Wholefoods.
I can’t even remember what I used to order there. Some kind of chocolate cake no doubt. However, what comes to mind now, is returning to Badde Manors in October 2018 and absorbing the cafe through the lens as it was that day – a frozen time capsule. I haven’t been there since, but get the impression from the web site that it might have been renovated.
Anyway, as I said, a friend tagged me on a photo of Badde Manors Cafe tonight, prompting me to post this photographic tour down memory lane. I thought others might want to join me here.
I especially hope those of you who used to hang out at Badde Manors have enjoyed sharing this trip down memory lane with me. It would be great if you could leave a few stories – a great thing to do on a wet and windy Boxing Day night.
I look forward to hearing from you!’
These are all my own photos copyright Rowena Curtin 2018.
Last year, our Christmas shrank from thirty to six, and this year it was down to four humans, and the three dogs were very much appreciated, even if they were plotting a grand ham heist as I carved it up on the bench.
It wasn’t sad, or disappointing. It was just the sensible thing to do. Moreover, our teenagers have been out and about a lot lately so it was good to spend time with them and have a family meal. There could well be a time round the corner where it could just be down to Geoff and myself home alone for Christmas once the kids move out. Yet, I couldn’t see that happening. I’d be opening up our home.
Our Church cancelled all services this year. They were only having Christmas Eve services anyway, and with covid going through the roof around here, they cancelled Christmas Eve as well and didn’t have a plan B. The call was made afternoon. However, we had dinner with some friends from Church and communion. I ended up doing a bit of a Church hop on Christmas Eve st5arting out at St Mary’s Cathedral (Catholic) to St Andrew’s (Anglican) both in Sydney and then hopping over to Westminster Abbey. None of these services were “me” but they were meaningful and quite beautiful. Indeed, those voices of the young boys sound quite ethereal and potentially rather reminiscent of our heavenly hosts. I don’t know. Perhaps, they could be more of a baritone.
Meanwhile, I headed out with our daughter after dinner driving round to check out the local Christmas lights. You have to love people who make over the top look lacklustre in whatever it is they undertake. We found this house that looked like a one stop carnival. It wasn’t a big house, but there were so many little nooks and crannies packed with dazzling Christmas scenes, a model train layout and even a snow machine. I felt like a born again five year old standing there taking it all it and it really energized my spirits on what was shaping up as a lacklustre Christmas (especially at this point our kitchen table was piled sky-high in Christmas cards, wrapping paper and everyone’s laziness.)
What most of you would probably notice about our Christmas, however, was the scorching heat. It was 30 degrees celsius by lunchtime and I’m sure you could’ve fried an egg out there. A few friends are looking a bit red and fried in photos today. We didn’t get to the beach, even though it’s just down the road. I was too busy with cleaning up the house, cooking and cleaning up and just wanted to fall into a chair and relax. Ditto for today. My dad’s always been one to lock the doors and bar the windows on Boxing Day.
Have you ever considered how much time, effort and money goes into Christmas? As parents, it can feel rather overwhelmed not to mention crippling especially when the kids are younger and you’re having to provide two sets of presents. Have you even wondered why? After all, Jesus was born in a very humble manger in Bethlehem and anything but Westminster Abbey. Scrooge gets a bit of bad press about being all bah humbug about Christmas, but have we one too much the other way spending buckets of money, especially when so many don’t even believe in the reason for the season?
However, quite aside from honouring Christ’s birth, Christmas Day provides that day once a year for families to draw together and reconnect- especially those big extended families of aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and multiple generations. That’s our usual Christmas and I love it. Would never trade it in, but at the same time, I am grateful that we’ve had a few Christmases at home with the kids. It would never have happened without covid. It also made me much more appreciative of all the work my aunt and family do each year as hosts.
What did you get up to for Christmas? I’d love to hear from you.
If ever there was a Christmas where I’ve been inclined to agree with Scrooge that Christmas is: “Bah, humbug”, this is it. This has been a year of so much tragic death for me and those around me, and none of them have involved covid. However, then I remember Christmases that were also tough like being fired just before Christmas and having to front up to the family Christmas unemployed and feeling like a failure…the family member voted least likely to succeed. Then, there was the Christmas I was still recovering from brain surgery after being diagnosed with hydrocephalus and not knowing if I would ever rise to the surface again. Ditto with 2012 when I started chemo to treat my auto-immune disease a week before Christmas and had my second treatment on Boxing Day. Then, there were the Christmases of recent breakups where my heart was raw and broken and I thought I’d never find Mr Right. Well, fortunately he appeared on NYE 1998 at a friend’s party watching Sydney’s famous fireworks extravaganza albeit from behind the Harbour Bridge and back to front. With covid infections soaring here, and a premier refusing to make the hard decisions, this Christmas is becoming seriously derailed, and it might just as well be cancelled.
However, a friend gave me a book: “Choose joy”, and I was incredibly encouraged by that. In fact, I’d even decided to print that out on my dymo labeller and stick in on my computer monitor where I spend so much of my life. However, and I’m quite sure what to make of this, the Dymo came up with an error and refused to print. What does that mean? Am I condemned to dwell in the dungeons of despair for eternity just because my labelling machine can’t rise to the job? I don’t think so. I will have to find a texta and sticky label and create my own joy.
That’s particularly important right now. You have probably heard that six children were killed in Devonport, Tasmania after their jumping castle was blown away in a freak gust of wind? Well, my husband Geoff is from North-Eastern Tassie and his Dad was from Penguin, right near Devonport. Geoff’s family on both sides has been in Tassie since early settlement and they had huge families which have spread like wild fire. I watch the TV coverage and I see people who look so much like my husband and his family that it’s eerie. Meanwhile, a close friend of ours was one of the counsellors helping families and children at the school. She has worked so hard to not only get her qualifications, but also hone her communication and connections skills with troubled and traumatised children over the years and we’re so grateful that she’s there to help. We are also praying for her and her colleagues in addition to the families, children, teachers from the school and the company which rented out the jumping castle. If you’d like to read more, here’s a link to my post: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/12/20/responding-to-tasmanias-jumping-castle-tragedy/
Meanwhile, I’m trying rather unsuccessfully to get the place ready for Christmas, especially as we may now be having Christmas at home. We did that for the first time last year and it was good for a change, but we were really looking forward to catching up with my Dad’s extended family which we haven’t seen for two years thanks to covid lockdowns. They have just vanished over the last two years, along with my parents, and I’d really like to reconnect. I also don’t want to have Christmas at home and go through all of that. A beach picnic is looking good if that’s what comes to pass.
Meanwhile, I do have some great things to share. Good news.
Firstly, our son passed his learner’s permit and is now legally allowed out on the road with an instructor. That was a huge effort. Thanks to lockdown, there was a huge backlog with the bookings, and so we had to drive him to Maitland to get tested, which is a 1.5 hour drive each way. Obviously, that was a big deal and both Geoff and I went with him for support. I was trying to be patient, but I was concerned that he hadn’t done enough study and it was all going to be a huge waste of time, followed by massive disappointment. However, we had a great chat on the way up and managed to get him decked out with new clothes beforehand. So, as he pointed out before he sat the test, it wasn’t an entire waste. However, he passed. I think think we’ll clock that one up to divine intervention. He confessed afterwards that he hadn’t done too much preparation.
We also had our daughter’s end of year dance concert last night. This was the last of three dance concerts in the last two weeks. It was absolutely enchanting and such an emotional journey. It was absolutely swept away through moments of sadness, joy, incredible steps twists and turns and brilliant choreography and storytelling all after 4 months of doing dance via zoom for four months with these covid lockdowns. Congratulations to them all.
As for me, I’m still beavering after on my research project of WWI on the home front and making great progress both in terms of output and my understanding. Still beavering away on Ethel Turner although she’s currently on the backburner. I also managed to get my Christmas cake made. So, now I just need to make space for the Christmas tree. It might be easier to soar to the moon, but you never know.
Well, on that note I’d like to wish you all a Merry and blessed Christmas inspite of whatever’s conspiring against that.
Love and God bless,
PS I forgot to mention that I went on an impromptu trip to Bethlehem via Google Earth during the week. It was hilarious. The first thing I spotted on the map was KFC and after landing in front of a garage door in an alleyway, it wasn’t long til I found myself cruising past KFC and a Coke sign. Gee what did I come all the way to Bethlehem for? However, I eventually managed to find some more historic sights beyond all the souvenir shops.
Many of you would have heard about the freakish, tragic accident in Devonport, Tasmania where so far six children died when a jumping castle was swept 10 metres into the air by a fierce, rogue gust of wind.
Although we live on the Australian “mainland” (as Tasmanians call it), for us it’s still quite personal. My husband is Tasmanian, and in particular, from Northern Tasmania. While Geoff was born and raised in Scottsdale on the North-East, his dad came from Penguin which is just over 30 kilometres away from Devonport and Geoff has families spread right throughout these parts. Indeed, numerous branches of his family arrived in Tasmania in the 1830s, and let’s just say there was no TV back then. Many of his ancestors had massive familes, and there was one guy in particular who really clocked the numbers up. He had 24 kids with two wives. So, you can appreciate how his family tree has been very prolific and spread something like a weed. I stir him about being related to anyone with old time family ties in Northern Tasmania, and I’m yet to be proven wrong, although it’s only been a small sample size.
So, like everyone else we were shocked and heartbroken by this freakish tragedy, but we had the added concern of whether we had family involved and it took awhile for them to release the names of the children. So, while we were one of the families pulling up at the school not knowing whether our child was affected or not, we were connected. Indeed, so many people are. Moreover, quite a number of my friends have kids making the transition from year 6 which is the end of our primary school system here, and into year 7 next year, which is the start of high school. So they’re really feeling it too.
For awhile there, we didn’t know the names of the children who had passed away. So, far they’re not familiar. However, but one grandfather looked familiar and would’ve fitted in well at Geoff’s sister’s place for Christmas. Moreover, there’s definitely a sense of Geoff and his family genetically belonging to this community. There’s a noticeable “look”. Being an island, Tassie is a close-knit community, but it’s also had its internal divides too. There’s traditionally been a very strong divide between North and South, and to a lesser extent the West Coast as well. Like most island communities, Tasmania is isolated and they refer to the refer of Australia as “the mainland”. One of Tasmania’s other claims to fame is that it often gets left off the map, although during covid having a moat was rather advantageous and I think some politician down there talked about having a moat and a drawbridge, and not being afraid to use it back in the early days of covid.
So, for this to happen in a place like Devonport, it’s monumental. With an estimated population of 25,747 in the 2020, it’s not a village. However, with a web of established families and networks, it’s a particularly close community – especially now.
Sharing a bit about Devonport with you isn’t going to help any of these families, but it helps me feel closer. It helps us feel closer to a community where we have indeterminate connections. A close friend of ours, who is married to Geoff’s best man, is a school counsellor at a nearby school, and was at Hillcrest School on Friday providing counselling for families and children – such a tough job but she’s put years into her training and really strives to develop strategies for connecting with children, and in particular children who are doing it tough for a whole swag of reasons. I’m not her mum, but I am proud of her and so grateful she was there. However, as we move into school holidays and Christmas, there needs to be a changing of the guard as school staff go on holidays. They will need support for the long haul.
Meanwhile, tonight we did what we do at the close of every year. We went to my daughter’s end of year dance concert. With all the stunning and thought-provoking dancing, it always makes me reflective, and when I see the younger ones dance, I also remember our daughter’s progression through all the grades to where she is now about to embark into the senior teens. I wasn’t being morbid. I wasn’t teary or sad. However, it certainly hammered home what it would mean if it happened here, and a sense of what the families at Hillcrest School are going through, and the students. Six of their precious friends are gone and for some it’s going to be very lonely going back to school next year. You hope they were all someone’s bestie, and know there are now six huge, and very painful holes in the playground, as well as at home. Holes they will never be filled, but I pray there will be some kind of healing. That maybe being in this together, they can help each other muddle through, and as the Beatles said “I get by with a little help from my friends.”