This whole concept of trying to get in the zone before school goes back is failing miserably. I sat in my chair at my computer without any sense of where to start and what to do next, and the dog sat on my lap which only compounded my sense of being lost in the wilderness, when I suddenly remembered I had my weekly Coffee Share to write. A quick check revealed I still have an hour to go. How lucky am I. Being on Summer time, I’ve gone forward an hour, and Natalie has lost an hour. Happy days!
Well, after much soul searching during the last week which mostly revolved around a close covid contact and our son’s return from youth camp, I am feeling a sense of relief. As you can see from the opening, I’m not quite on top of things, but I’m not travelling backwards at the speed of sound either.
Indeed, I feel I’ve moved forward somewhat from when I posted this during the week:
The most important thing is that we were covid clear. I was still fighting the pseudo-covid virus and annoying vertigo, but not being covid meant we could get some milk, Geoff could do a critical IT upgrade at the hospital and I wasn’t left wondering whether I should go to hospital or not. As I said, happy days. On top of that, our daughter is getting back on track with her dance after a difficult year last year, and in their production of Swan Lake, she will be covering Odette and playing a Big Swan. It’s so exciting. She was also accepted into a separate choreography piece, and I’m not sure what that’s about but she’s in.
Meanwhile, I’m working towards the “kids'” upcoming birthdays. Our son will be turning 18 in March and our daughter will be turning “Sweet 16” (I sometimes wonder about that, but most of the time she’s sweet enough). As you could imagine, I’ve taken loads of photos over the years. I’m wanting to produce some printed photo books. However, they have around 30 pages, and although you can add extra pages, you don’t want something the size of an old-fashioned phone book. It has to be manageable. So I think the 30 pages is good, and I’ll just break them down into categories and do a couple. However, producing a photo book is much more complex than I thought, especially if I’m producing the photos he wants to see, which might be very different from the photos I would choose for myself. There are also ethical dilemmas, and on this front, I’m running with the Golden Rule. I know I’m very good at over-complicating things, but this time I’d seriously under-estimated what was involved and I’m seriously hoping the special deal they have running doesn’t run out before I’ve got it sorted. I guess that also tells me what I’m doing this afternoon.
Lastly, in terms of research this week, I’ve been doing a bit on my Irish family history. This time, I’ve been looking at the Curtins from Cork City, County Cork. I’ve mentioned them last week I think. It’s now starting to look like John Curtin’s siblings survived the Great Hunger and childhood. Or, at least some of them did, which is good and we probably have rather distant family who are still there. Small steps. Meanwhile, I walked around Cork City via Google Earth. It was fun, and I covered quite a lot of distance in my lounge chair without wearing out. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get over there in the not too distant future!
Btw here’s a link to a post I put together for Thursday Doors:
Well, how was your week? I hope it’s been good and I look forward to hearing about your adventures over tea or coffee.
Meanwhile, you might like to join us over at the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/ I can’t offer you any fresh baked snacks, but I can share a slice of paradise:
There are times when every parent, and maybe even doting grandparent, wants to disassociate with naughty or over-exuberant children, and pretend they’ve never seen them before. Whether we admit to that in public or not, is another matter. However, we all know it’s true.
Things were doubly complicated with my two, because from the time our daughter was born and our eldest was only two, I developed a debilitating muscle wasting disease called dermatomyositis, and I couldn’t keep up. Hence, my parents had a much more active role with the kids and often had to step up and into my shoes. Well, that’s my justification for why my father was in charge of our rather unruly four year old daughter better known as Miss who could do no wrong.
This wasn’t the only sign of misbehaviour either, and to be perfectly honest I’m sure someone gave her red cordial, orange Fanta or something else along those lines` that night. Our kids were strictly “no artificial colours or preservatives”. However, strict adherence doesn’t mean the system was foolproof.
Anyway, my aunt was having an official book launch at Gleebooks in Sydney by Julianne Schulz from the Griffith Review. This won’t mean much to many of you who are overseas, (or in Australia beyond academic circles for that matter). However, my aunt is a professor and an award-winning author and she’s spoken at numerous writer’s festivals, including the Sydney Writers’ Festival ( which gave yours truly access to the Writers’ Greenroom. I was in heaven!!)
So, in other words, this was no backyard launch, and quite a serious affair. One of those events where parents always give their kids a talking to before you all arrive about being on their VERY BEST BEHAVIOUR!! They are to be seen and not heard. Of course, “not seen and not heard” is capital letter TROUBLE in these situations, and to be avoided at all costs.
However, 12 years down the track from said book launch, the behavior of Miss Four, (and indeed it was only Miss Four who was playing up) appears rather funny. She was pure mischief that night, and her brother and their friend were pretty good. Indeed, when I look at the photos, I think the friend is wondering what she’s on. Mind you, both the boys were already at Big School so they had an unfair advantage.
While we’re on the subject of taking unruly kids into adult situations, I also found a photo of the kids when we were visiting Concordia College in Toowoomba. My grandfather, Pastor Bert Haebich, was the first Acting Principal there back around 1948, and we were given a lovely tour of the school by the Communications Manager. She was such a kind soul and as we’re in the very prestigious boardroom which has my grandfather’s portrait in the very stately line-up, she gave them whiteboard markers and allowed them to write on the whiteboard. She was someone who really understood young kids and parents. At the same time, it does look funny and out of place.
As for the title of my aunt’s book, it’s full title is Murdering Stepmothers: the Execution of Martha Rendell. Martha Rendell as the last woman to be hanged in Western Australia, after being found guilty of poisoning her three stepchildren with medicine. It’s a great read but might be hard to get hold of.
Of course, my aunt adores my kids, and still believes they can do no wrong, despite this eventful night.
Do you have any stories of your kids having a moment? Of course, you do. Even parents of cats and dogs have stories of pure mischief.
Well, my two are about to turn eighteen and sixteen and let’s just say the perimeters have changed, but we’re not out of the woods yet.
It’s been awhile since I’ve contributed to Thursday Doors. Having been in and out of lockdown and keeping a low profile due to my vulnerable health status, I’ve been heading out into nature for my walks rather than places that have doors. However, I also have flirtations with Google Earth and go wondering overseas.
This week, I went to Cork City, Ireland. It’s home to the Curtin side of my rather expansive gene pool, and went wandering along Evergreen Road. While this isn’t where most people head when they travel to Ireland, especially for the first time, it had special significance for me. When my 4 x Great Grandfather was buried, it mentioned that he was a “Native of Evergreen, Cork” on his tombstone. While I’m still not entirely sure what that meant, there is an Evergreen Road and an Evergreen Street, and a few Curtins who lived there over the years. However, just to annoy me, I’ve found no sign of him or his parents living there.
If you have had anything to do with family history and I am what would be classed as an obsessive addict, you would know that there are those ancestors who are very upfront, share all their secrets and are an open book. On the other hand, there are others where you’re pulling teeth just to get the very basics out of them. I understand that, and that even the dead might want their privacy. However, that doesn’t stop me from trying, or from being disappointed when I hit another brick wall. I have an insatiable curiosity.
As it’s turned out, some of the most elusive characters have given up their secrets in time, and that includes John Curtin. He was baptized on the 1st July, 1831 in the Parish of St Finbarr’s, City of Cork, County Cork, Ireland. HIs parents were Mary Scannell and Thomas Curtin, who was a Stevedore according to John’s death certificate. It took me about 30 years to finally find the ship which brought John Curtin out to Australia. He’d worked his passage over as a Able Seaman on board the Scotia, arriving in Sydney on the 4th April, 1854. We don’t have any photos of John Curtin. However, the other day, I stumbled across a physical description in the newspaper while looking for someone else. As you could well imagine, this physical description wasn’t there to praise his physical prowess. Yes, indeed. He was a wanted man, and this description appeared in the New South Wales Police Gazette and Weekly Record of Crime a list of deserting husbands on Wednesday 7 April 1880:
“Deserting Wives and Families, Service, &c.
Sydney.—A warrant has been issued by the Water Police Bench for the arrest of John Curtin, charged with disobeying a Magisterial order for the support of his wife, Bridget. Curtin is about 50 years of age, 5 feet 7 or 8 inches high, fresh complexion, brown hair, short brown whiskers and moustache, shaved on chin ; dressed in dark tweed trousers and vest, and black cloth sac coat ; a blacksmith.”
This was followed up by this notice in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday 17 April 1880:
“John Curtin, 50, for neglecting to pay to the officer in charge of No. 3 station the sum of £8 15s., due on an order of court for the support of his wife, was committed to gaol until the order should be complied with.”
The timing of his disappearance wasn’t great. On the 12th March 1880, Elizabeth Curtin the wife of their eldest son John Thomas, had passed away leaving three children. Three days later, on the 15th March, their eight month old daughter, Mary Ann, was admitted to the Benevolent Asylum where she died on the 13th December, 1880. John and Bridget had also lost a two year old son the year before. Clearly, these were hard times, which perhaps begs the question: would they have been better off back in Ireland? Did they ever consider going back?
Anyway, this brings me back to Evergreen Road in County Cork and 2022. I’d had a peek through Cork before and wasn’t surprised that it felt familiar was quite similar to Sydney’s Paddington and Surry Hills. Yet, it’s different and besides, I’m only talking about one street, and a small section at that. It’s hardly representative. Further explorations and clearly required.
By the way, while I was rambling along, I stumbled across the Evergreen Bar at 34 Evergreen Road, Turners Cross. Of course, I had to wonder whether it was around in John Curtin’s time, and indeed whether it might’ve been his “local”. If so, was he singing along to Irish music in there way back then? What would those walls say about him if only they could speak? However, my imaginative wanderings were cut brutally short when I found out the Evergreen Bar has been closed and is now being turning into housing. Oh! Woe is me!! It would’ve been nice to go there in person one day and simply wonder where John Curtin had been.
Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a link to an Irish band, the Sea Captains, who had played at the Evergreen:
“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”Lewis Carroll
I wonder if there is truly anyone whose life is exactly how it was back on New Year’s Eve 2019 we entered into 2020? I remember that night so well watching the Sydney fireworks on TV at a friend’s party. We had such high hopes for 2020. After all, it was meant to be the year of perfect vision – not the beginnings of a terrifying global pandemic which is still haunting us two years later.
Indeed, that also leads to the next question about whether we have changed. Or, to be more precise how much have we changed both as individuals and communities in all sorts of ways since covid first appeared?
There’s been a lot of talk about how vaccines are changing our DNA. However, I haven’t heard anyone mention how we might be reprogramming our own brains through the various covid or lockdown projects many of us are undertaking, and how the very structure of our brains could well be altered as a result – again in good and bad ways.
My world has been affected more than many because I wasn’t in paid employment when Covid hit due my lingering health issues, but I was more or less at a point where I was considering looking for some part time work. Before lockdown, I’m been beavering away on my blog and had various attempts at writing books, and have been trying to find my thing. With our son booked to go on a six week history tour of Europe and visiting the battlefields of France where his Great Great Uncle paid the ultimate sacrifice just three months before the end of WWI, I started retracing his steps and putting together his story. I also picked up on my Great Great Uncle Jack Quealey who I knew very little about and I had so much trouble nutting his story out, that I had to reach him through the letters and diaries of other soldiers. Before I knew it, researching our family members had expanded into a massive, obsessive research project. I saw no problem in that. Only good. Covid was the enemy, and I was going to have something concrete to show for it. Indeed, as lockdown continued, and it was still unsafe for me to venture out, and lockdown started up again, this project had totally overgrown it’s boundaries and it had become all consuming. While my friends were out there exercising with equal zeal, I was researching, writing, transcribing letters for hours and hours, days, months. Indeed, I didn’t mean this to happen, but along the way, I stopped playing my violin, my keyboard and even writing my blog. I also kept putting off exercise. Well, exercise is hardly my best friend, and it is a bit like swallowing that vile teaspoon of cod liver oil, especially before I get out there and actually see the roses and our stunning local beaches and coast.
Well, if you know anything about neuroplasticity, you know that the wiring in our brains isn’t set in stone. It is fluid – ever-changing. So the more you do something, your brain responds by building bigger fibres…whether these are good, bad, or indifferent habits. It’s part of the reason why practice makes perfect. It’s also the same with emotions. If you keep getting angry, the angry cable in your brain will just keep getting bigger and bigger unless you start bringing your anger in line.
This is all very simplistic. I’m not trying to be a neuroscientist. I’m just trying to give you the general gist.
Anyway, just before Christmas the penny finally dropped. Sydney had just completed an incredible four month lockdown and with my auto-immune disease and acute lung complications, I had to stay low. Moreover, after our fearless Prime Minister and his cohort, our new NSW Premier, decided to “let it rip” to save the economy, I burrowed deeply underground hoping the storm would pass by overhead and leave us alone. However, that hasn’t happened and now to quote a friend “it’s EVERYWHERE!!” Omicron is like the common cold on steriods. I’ve also decided it’s the fulfillment of all my grandmother’s most vivid nightmares of germs…germs on the toilet seat, germs on the public phone. She would’ve been beside herself through this covid crisis and her handbag which always seemed to have a bag of lollies (for herself as much as for us), dainty hankies which were useless when she cried in Church, she’d now be armed with industrial strength Spray & Wipe. The sort of stuff that dissolves the surface of your benchtop, your toilet seat, as well as a layer of skin.
To be perfectly honest I’ve found it much easier to hide than deal with all of that.
However, after two years of hiding, and after two years of fighting for the needs of vulnerable people with disabilities and chronic health conditions to be acknowledged and safeguarded and two years of detailed, obsessive but incredibly fascinating and productive research, I am not who I was before. I know I am seriously out of kilter, and all sense of balance has gone.
The other aspect to all this hiding away is that my social life is all but dead. For the hardcore introvert, that could be a blessed relief. However, as a fairly extroverted extrovert it has fairly major ramifications. I don’t know what it is to go our for dinner with friends anymore, and I’m glad I managed to get out for dinner with Geoff a few times before omicron flared up. I’ve become a prisoner inside my own body let alone the house.
After spending so much of the last two years reading, writing and researching and very little time socialising, exercising, or even doing such basic things as catching the train and using cash, I know I’m nothing like who I was before. I don’t know if I can or choose to go back to sit on the same seat on the bus I was occupying before. Or, if I want to get off. Or, Indeed, in so many ways I know I already have.
Of course, I know I’m far from alone in all of this. That many of you who are in the same boat, and you’re also asking: “Where to from here?”
The honest answer for me, is that I just don’t know.
My daughter goes back to school next week, but of more immediate concern, it seems covid has snuck under the front door and I’m not feeling well. Our son went to youth camp and we pretty much expected him to bring it home. I did try to get him tested before he came back, but that fell through. I tried to usher him straight into his room, but he was full of stories and so full of life. Meanwhile, our daughter’s best friend was also positive and just about everyone we know aside from my mum and dad has it or has been exposed. Dad is waging his own war on covid and he he won’t catch it, and it won’t catch him. A true introvert, he’s determined.
“When I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!” – Lewis Carroll
So, where to from here? In the immediate sense I’m off to make a cup of decaf tea before heading to bed. Anything more than that, will have to wait until tomorrow.
Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts about what lies ahead and I should just mention that the first quote from Lewis Carroll comes from a book I’ve just started reading: Tea & Honesty with Jules Sebastian – wife of international singer and musician Guy Sebastian and now an author in her own right.
How are you? If you were coming to my place, we’d be sitting out the front wearing masks and sending hand signals. Covid has gone from being “over there” (a common phrase used here in Australia due to our geographical isolation) to being in certain hotspots, and then “out there” but not local. However, now it is here but not here. Loads of friends have had it or have it, but as far as we know, it’s not inside our house, or indeed inside our very own lungs. At least, we think it’s not. I can’t even even smell a RAT let alone buy one.
When I think of covid creeping around like this and the sense of it finally getting hold of you, I’m reminded of a kid’s folk story which was read aloud to me with great inflection and animation. “Who’s Got My Hairy Toe?” There are a few variations of it, but the one I know finishes off very dramatically with the dreaded monster saying: “YOU”VE GOT IT!!!!” I still haven’t forgotten that sense of absolutely leaping out of my skin forty years later, but there’s what this whole lurking omnipresent covid situation feels like right now. Fortunately, some vulnerable people I know (including those with my medical condition) have got through omicron without going to hospital so that is encouraging.
Meanwhile, life goes on.
Most of the news this week relates to our son, who is just a couple of months off his 18th birthday. Last week, he went away to the Church’s youth Summer Camp. This is probably the highlight of his year. He does sound and DJ work usually at camp, which he loves. I don’t know a lot of what happens at camp, and the old adage “what happens at camp stays at camp” applies, although I did chase up covid transmissions afterwards and he was full of stories about the pranks other people were caught up in. While he was away, we got into his room and I was just going to wash the bedding, but before I knew it, I was going a major clean and we were actually able to walk through the joint to install an air-conditioner. This was good, because we were expecting to lock him away in there for a few days after he got back as a precaution. However, when he arrived home he was so animated and full of stories, it was hard to stay away.
Going to Summer Camp isn’t such a thing here in Australia like it is in America and possibly Canada. However, our kids have gone on Scout and youth camps. The first time our son went off to the Scout Jamboree, we received an urgent text warning us that funnel web spiders had been found in two backpacks when they arrived home. Our son promptly removed his pack from his room and dumped it at my feet. I don’t know what madness made him think Mum was the great protector and defender against deadly spiders, especially when HE’S the one who is into spiders. However, kids are always unpredictable and keep putting parents on our toes. There were no spiders in the pack, and hopefully no covid in him now.
It did feel good to get his room sorted, and it’s encouraging me to keep going.
During all this household sorting business, I came across a postcard advertising sailing with the Young Endeavour. The Young Endeavour Youth Scheme, in partnership with the Royal Australian Navy, provides young Australians with a unique, challenging and inspirational experience at sea on board the national sail training ship Young Endeavour. The actual ship is a replica of Captain James Cook’s Endeavour which “discovered” the East Coast of Australia in 1770. These days we are hopefully more sensitive to Australia’s Aboriginality, and that Australia was never “lost”, or a blank canvas, or “terra nullus”. However, that’s another story.
What matters here, is that I actually managed not only to fill out the paperwork, the next day I was notified that he had a berth. On the 21st March, 2022 he sails out of Geelong, Victoria and arrives in Sydney on the 30th nine days later. This means we’ll be driving him down there, and will be there to see him arrive back. This is such good news, because he’s had quite a few significant disappointments and setbacks due to Covid. Most notably, he missed out of his European History Tour in 2020 and that was a very big deal. This, he feels, makes up for that, so now we’re saying our prayers and crossing our fingers that all goes smoothly and he’ll be off. Nothing is a certainty anymore and while I try to be optimistic sometimes I feel doomed. That we might indeed be under an unlucky star. However, usually my spirits lift and our plans aren’t dashed on the rocks after all.
Meanwhile, in between trying to get our daughter organised for heading back to school on February 2nd, I’ve been beavering away on my family history research. I’ve taken January off my WWI research and wasn’t intending to do much research at all but the weather hasn’t been the best, covid’s around and I’m back at it.
My book pile is also growing beside me. These are the books I’ve bought in the last couple of weeks, and a new book pile which is growing beside my writing chair in the loungeroom. This is not the book pile on the coffee table or the book pile I lent to a friend first because I thought she’d get through them all before me. There’s still Kay Arthur’s: “Choosing Joy”, but recent arrival are Tim Hawkes: “Ten Leadership Lessons You Must Teach Your Teenager”. I’m going to start reading that today, and I think the title is just asking for me to read one lesson per day. Jules Sebastian’s book: “Tea and Honesty” arrived today. I couldn’t wait to order that even though I’m well and truly overloaded with books already. She’s married to international musician Guy Sebastian. Guy’s songs are deep and philosophical. Moreover, Jules’s brother committed suicide while they were on their honeymoon, so I think she’ll have some good things to say. There’s also Sally Rooney’s novel: “Normal People”. It’s been around for awhile. Have you read it? Then, there’s Mark Kurzem’s: “The Mascot” which is a WWII Jewish escape story. I loaned it to a friend first and he loved it. Lastly, I’m reading my aunt’s national history of the Stolen Generation to fill background on some of my family history. My great grandfather’s cousins were married to Aboriginal women and living in the Yass Black Camp so I’m trying to find out more about that.
Lastly, my Great Uncle passed away during the week. I think he was 97 and still lucid. I haven’t seen him for quite awhile. He was the youngest in the family and my grandfather was the eldest and there were four sisters in between. They were born and raised in Hahndorf in South Australia which is like living in a museum in many ways, especially if you are living in one of the original houses on the main street. The Haebich used to have the blacksmith’s shop on Main Road and my grandfather told stories of watching the hot iron wheel plunging into water a steam shooting up. It must’ve been such a spectacle especially back in the days before TV and the Internet. I’m not even sure he went to the movies as a young child. He never mentioned it. Thanks to covid and distance, we won’t be getting down there for the funeral.
Well, that’s all folks.
How are things with you going? I hope you’ve had a good week.
Believe it or not, it is actually Sunday night. Or, more accurately early Monday morning, because it’s after midnight and I’m not about to confess just how far after midnight it might be. Let’s just say the cow jumped over the moon quite awhile ago now. So, I’ve actually made good headway and hopefully won’t be rushing it through on deadline again. After all, it’s a whole new year, and I’ve been reformed, transformed but strangely still look, feel and act much the same as I did last year.
Awhile back, I remember hearing someone say covid was from the Devil. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that. However, as time goes by, I’m increasingly pointing the finger at the man downstairs and wondering whether he does have something to do with this mess after all. After all, he’s not going to leave his calling card out as he spins his evil web. If he’s really smart and let’s just say he’s had a lot of experience at being the Devil, he’s cunning and knows how to cover his tracks. He’s not like the two year old who stole the chocolate bar and is denying it while having chocolate smeared all of his his face and tiny hands. He slips right under the radar and probably even convinces you it’s all your fault when it was him all along. Anyway, we have people like myself boarded up at home avoiding covid. We have people holding covid parties to try to catch the darn thing now and get it over and done with. I even read a story tonight about someone who hosted one of these parties and everyone else caught it but him. In the last 24 hours, NSW had 48,768 reported cases. However, that’s a spit in the ocean. It’s mission impossible to get tested and the big question on everyone’s lips is where can you get RATs? Perhaps, I should start selling off the residents of our roof if they’re still up there. They could make me a pretty penny right now.
How many of you have had covid or had someone in your household with it?
I live in Greater Sydney, and until now we’d largely been spared. I didn’t know anyone locally who’d acquired covid and we could do our typical Australian thing of thinking we’d be right. Being relatively isolated, we can hide away from quite a few of the world’s ills. However, our politicians in their infinite wisdom, decided to “let it rip”. Now, to quite a friend, “it’s everywhere”. The NSW Health Minister says “we’re all going to get it.” Sounds like I might as well just throw myself under the bus and get it over with. However, my dad heard that the health department expects only 50% of the population to get it, which is much better odds, and he’s determined to be in the 50% that doesn’t get it. I’m out to join him. Meanwhile, our son is at youth camp and very likely to bring it home. We’re trying to be prepared for that. A number of my friends have caught it, and are still isolating at home. Where it gets tricky is how to manage it when you have a household especially where someone is vulnerable, how to you contain the contagion? As the days go by, things have escalated so quickly and we’ve gone from very low cases numbers to an explosion and it’s no longer in Italy, USA, UK it’s our our favourite cafe. It’s at church. The hardware store…but only a case here and there, but now it’s in our homes. The Grim Reaper MKII is actually in our homes. Indeed, it’s even invaded some of us. It’s not very nice.
Meanwhile, I’ve been beavering away on my family history, and trying to enter it into Wikitree. I’m really pleased to be getting it online to share it, but also if something happens to me, my research will be out there. I’ve been doing it for years and my kids aren’t hugely interested. At least, not yet. Hopefully, someone or someones will appreciate it all or in part.
One of the interesting things I found out a few years ago is that two of my Great Grandfather’s uncles married Aboriginal women and that he had cousins who were Aboriginal and a number had been put in orphanages, and were part of the stolen generation and really had a rough time. I’ve known about the Stolen Generation and known members of the Stolen Generation and heard their stories. Indeed, my aunt wrote the national history of the Stolen Generation and I was living with her at the time and read through some of the drafts. She was so strong reading through all their stories and interviewing these people and taking all their heartbreak on herself. Of course, I cared about that and was outraged. However, it’s quite a different thing to know that someone from your family went through that, and to hear how that not only impacted on them personally, but also for generations to come. It’s made the racism in the country which is directed at our indigenous people even more abhorrent. You might not be aware of this, but Aboriginal used to be classified as fauna on the national census. They weren’t even considered human. So, I’ve entered all these names into Wikitree and hope it helps someone out there to find their roots.
I’m inclined to tell you that nothing much has happened around here, because truly it hasn’t. I’m locked away avoiding covid, and it’s very humid outside and I’m struggling to breathe outside and need the air-conditioning on. However, this I remember and it’s so bad that I guess I filed it in the denial basket. A 13 year old local boy was stabbed and murdered by another 13 year old about a 15 minute drive away. To be honest, we assumed initially that it had happened in our local park after dark. However, it happened further afield but that won’t make a different to the family and friends. My daughter’s friend’s brother was good friends with the boy via the football club and the two families are friends too. I bought a succulent in a pot for the brother and wrapped it all up in cellophane just to acknowledge he’d lost his friend and that mattered. I also gave a bunch of sunflowers to his mum. It’s just awful. This fight was unfortunately was pre-meditated so it’s not looking good for the guilty party. Two lives ruined in an instant, and families shattered. It also reminds me how vulnerable teens are to making truly life-changing mistakes. I bought a book on leadership for teens by a friend of mine Dr Tim Hawkes who is a retired headmaster. I’m hoping it can knock some sense into my kids, although I doubt they’re read it. I’ll try and glean the wisdom from it and slowly but steadily drip feed it through.
I also just remembered that I’d written last week’s coffee share post before we had our drama, and something did actually happen here. Last Monday afternoon, Geoff was out the back working on the trailer, when he cut his leg open and rudely disturbed by cup of tea. Indeed, I was told to call 000, and fetch the medical kit. At least, we had one this time. A few weeks ago we couldn’t even find a Band-Aid when our son burned his foot on his campfire. Geoff went into shock and didn’t quite pass out, but he wasn’t able to speak and sweat was pouring off him. Good thing I was under the misguided belief a ambulance would pull up any tick of the clock, because although I was stressed, I wasn’t in total panic. As it turned out, that Monday was not a good day for the ambulance service and they advised me to take him myself in the end. That day, a woman gave birth to a premmie baby at home and there was no ambulance for them either and they drove themselves to hospital and she was giving the baby heart massage in the back seat. After hearing that, our drama was nothing.
Meanwhile our son has gone off to youth camp. He’s gone for three days and we fully expect him to have covid when he gets back. However, he has such a good time there and I couldn’t bare for him to miss out.
Our daughter is currently on school holidays putting in a lot of shifts at McDonald’s and the holiday dance classes have started up again. We are also starting to thinking about buying her a special tutu and we were just browsing through a few to get some ideas. It’s like shopping for a wedding dress without having to worry about what happens afterwards.
Well, how was your week? I probably should’ve asked you that at the outset and not the end. However, I have pictured up having coffee together. Indeed, it’s been a rather long coffee because once again deadline is looming and I’m about to miss out.
We all know we live in a crazy world right now. However, when your teenage daughter goes shopping and is chuffed to procure a lifetime’s supply of toilet paper, you know the world’s gone stark raving mad.
Well just to reassure you that all isn’t lost, she also bought clothes.
The day she goes out and just buys toilet paper, is when we all need to start figuring out how to colonise the moon.
What’s going on in your neck of the woods? I don’t think anyone knows which way’s up or down here. Supplies are short in the shops, and shelves are bare across all categories. I’ve barely been near the shops. So, this is second-hand intelligence from Geoff who was doing our shopping before he bunged his leg up. Meanwhile, as many around us are falling like flies to omicron, we’re still okay. Our son heads off to youth camp on Saturday and we’re expecting trouble when he gets home and are trying to procure RATs before he gets back.
Hope you’re all keeping well.
PS Jokes aside, I am grateful she thought of us when she spotted the toilet paper. Supplies were getting low at home, and she was being so considerate and helpful. Its traits like this I value most as a parent.
Perhaps, I should’ve kept my big mouth shut. After all, as the saying goes: “be careful what you wish for”. However, I was quite clear about what I wished for. That was “fun”. I’ve barely been out of lockdown since late June, and it’s wearing thin. However, when I said I needed more fun, I certainly didn’t mention anything about “drama”, or God forbid…”panic”. Moreover, I’m doubly sure I mentioned nothing about medical emergencies, or wanting to live out the show: “24 Hours in Emergency”. I’d also like to add, that Nurse Nancy is a Little Golden Book character, and should also stay well within its covers, and well away from the real world. While we’re at it, I’ll also clarify that I’m a taxi driver, not an “ambo”.
However, that all changed today.
I was sitting inside having a cup of tea when the phone rang. It took me a bit to grasp what was going on. There was just a “hello”, and I was trying to work out who it was and what was going on. Of course, you’d expect me to recognise my own husband’s voice on the phone. However, the voice sort of sounded underwater. However, in what seemed like an eternity, I managed to ascertain that Geoff had had an accident in the backyard, and had a nasty gash to his leg. He also asked me to call an ambulance, and bring out the medical kit. I also grabbed a cloth nappy. Although I never used them as nappies for the kids, I still have my stash and they come in handy.
Heading out to the backyard, I found Geoff sitting on the step of the garage. On the phone to the ambulance, I handed him the nappy to wrap around his leg, while wrestling with the medical kit one-handed trying to get it open. Geoff also ended up having to open that up himself. Meanwhile, the operator was asking me a lot of questions about how Geoff cut himself, and the wound itself. However, by now Geoff is unresponsive, and I can’t get a word out of him. I’m feeling like Johnny come-lately. I know nothing about what happened. He’s also sweating profusely. Yet, while it should be panic stations, I was relatively calm. After all, I was talking to emergency and any minute those sirens will be blaring and everything would be okay. Like miraculous, heaven-sent angels, they’d soon be here to save the day.
Now, they’re asking me if he hit an artery. With no blood in sight, it doesn’t look like it. I should be relieved, but he’s still unresponsive, and he’s clearly not okay. While he’s not bleeding to death, I don’t want him to plummet down their triage list just yet, although I know he has. I’m well aware our hospital system and ambulance network is seriously overstretched responding to covid. However, fortunately Geoff perked up, and was probably more in shock. Despite being asked not to move him, it’s hot and muggy outside and we get him inside and into the air-conditioning – me too. My breathing isn’t good, and with my bad lungs, stress and humidity, I might be needing the ambulance myself.
A paramedic calls me back to touch base. We weren’t forgotten. With an extended delay ahead and Geoff doing much better, he explains it would be better for us to drive Geoff into hospital ourselves to get him seen faster. There is a risk of infection, and after six hours he’ll be needing intravenous antibiotics. Obviously, that’s best avoided, and someone else has been already been waiting for 12 hours in the queue. I ask the paramedic if he minded if I talked it through with him. I’m not quite sure I can do it yet. As you may be aware, I have disability and health issues. So, it wasn’t a straightforward consideration. To make matters worse, I wrote the car off in the hospital carpark a few years ago when I was taking our son to Emergency. However, I’ve come a long way since then and started believing more in myself. That I could do it.
Of course, I knew we could ring a friend, and ask them to drive us. However, I was feeling okay. Besides, we had help…our number one son. He turns 18 in a couple of months and now has a man’s strength. Indeed, he is actually quite strong. “Of course, he’s strong,” I hear you say. However, I’m his Mum. While I haven’t thought about him being “my baby” for a very long time, he might still be “my boy”. All these years, we have been his strength, even through the very worst of my debilitating muscle weakness. Now, in the blink of an eye, he’s grown up. Strong as a rock, he would be there to help get his dad into the wheelchair and into the hospital. That sounds so ordinary, yet it was incredibly profound. At least, it was to me. I hope it meant something to him too, and he was encouraged.
We arrived at the hospital. To my macabre sense of humour (which is always more heightened in medical emergencies), I felt like we were on the set of The Godfather. Instead of driving the red Alfa, I’m pulling up in a black, mafia mobile with really dark tinted windows, and we’re turfing him out on the pavement outside the hospital with a bullet hole in him somewhere, instead of this cut to his leg.
This is what happens to your loved ones these days thanks to covid. We’re not allowed to go in with him, and in all honesty, I can’t go in anyway. Covid is literally everywhere, and I’m very vulnerable. I do not want to go anywhere near the hospital. So instead of sitting lovingly by his side, our son fetches a wheelchair and someone to push it, and he disappears behind closed doors.
By now, it’s 6.30pm, and time for dinner. Geoff doesn’t eat seafood, so we head off to the local Chinese restaurant to order Honey Prawns. However, being Monday night, they were shut, and I had to settle with our son’s choice of KFC.
Meanwhile, after packing Geoff an overnight bag with PJs, a couple of clean shirts, undies, toothbrush, and phone charger, we’d barely got through dinner, when the phone rang. He was all patched up and ready for pick up. I’m not good with keeping track of time, but he might’ve been there for an hour. Apparently, the wound wasn’t as deep as he thought. However, it still warranted 18 stitches. So, to translate that into the Australian vernacular, it was an impressive “scratch”.
A scratch? We went through all of that for a scratch?
To be perfectly honest, we didn’t go through all of that for a scratch. It was for love, and as cheesy as it sounds, because we’re a family. Family isn’t confined to your genetics. It can also be a choice….a special connection, a bond. However, having someone to ring when you’re in trouble and who will be there for you in that special way, is life changing and it stops people falling through the ground when the chips are down. Of course, we also have our faith and know God is always with us. However, his ways aren’t always our ways and our time here is finite. That’s not something which stares me in the face every day, but it is something I factor into my expectations.
So, while I was looking for fun today, I found drama, but also a renewed appreciation of our family, and so much gratitude for the growth in our son.
I’d like to share a poem I wrote about him when he was five not long after he’d started school. I was helping out a lot in his classroom and helping to teach the kids how to write and hat all important thing of leaving a finger space in between the words, which for them wasn’t something they could just eyeball and get it right. It was quite a slow, conscious, and very physical process of actually putting their finger on the page and writing around it and they had to concentrate so much. It was hard work. I flashed forward from that moment to when he walked out of that gate and he’d become a man. He still has a way to go and he’s really been up against it with covid, but he’s getting there. Today, as they say, was proof of the pudding.
This post has covered quite a bit of ground, but I’d love you to respond with stories of your own.
PS I’d just like to add that the road hasn’t been easy for our family, and we have really toughed it out. I don’t know whether I’d describe us as particularly happy, but we’re not miserable either and that says a lot. There’s gratitude, but also envy, disappointment and being human. Whatever else we are and however we might feel in the moment, we are a family…us and our dogs.
Well, I am going to launch off the New Year with a huge philosophical question: why do I always leave writing my coffee share posts down to the last second where I’m racing the clock and nearly missing out by a hair’s breadth?
I don’t know. Indeed, now more than ever, I have no excuse. The air is covid soup out there, and so I’m either at home or walking around in nature, although I must confess I went to the opportunity shop last week albeit wearing a mask and avoiding all human contact because right now we know EVERYONE has the plague, even if they haven’t fully appreciated it themselves. I guess that also includes me, and my cough, but I always have that so it would be hard to know. Although I’m triple vaccinated and take my daily dose of 1000mg vitamin C, I fully expect to KNOW if and when I get covid on account of my crappy lungs.
Anyway, I’ve become so distracted that I’m distracted from my distractions, and even spent two days entering my family history stuff into Wikitree like a woman possessed. To be honest, I can’t really explain it, but there I was populating cyberspace with all these people who were strangely represented by little Lego people in my head and their little Lego city started out as Surry Hills and Paddington in urban Sydney, and spread out over the Blue Mountains to a place called Rylstone near Orange. It’s a place I’ve never heard of before but it was interesting reading the little newspaper clippings I came across about their life out on the farm there, especially after they’d come out from Ireland.
In a sense it’s not surprising that my need for people interaction, family and friends has become rather warped when I’m an extrovert living underground. We just had Christmas at home with the four of us and were even counting the three dogs this year. Yes, that means there were actually seven of us for lunch and almost enough to constitute a “party”. My parents decided not to attend the big family Christmas to be on the safe side, and by the end of me trying to convinced them to go, Dad won out and we stayed away too. I couldn’t be sure our kids didn’t have it, and I didn’t want Dad’s siblings who are mostly over 70 catching it and going down badly.
However, we made our own day, and we razzled things up a bit with a genuine German Gingerbread House from our local German bakery, and we went driving around looking at the Christmas lights. These were people’s houses so mostly they weren’t as spectacular as what Natalie had to share from Toronto, but there were a few houses that really made a valiant effort. Indeed, they were completely over the top in a way that had to be be seen close up to be fully appreciated.
Not only did we cancel attending the big family Christmas, we also cancelled our annual family holiday to Byron Bay to see Geoff’s sister at Nureybar two doors down from Liam Hemsworth btw. We couldn’t be sure that we wouldn’t be taking covid with us and that area is heavily anti-vax and into natural therapies and it really didn’t feel like it was going to be a true holiday. That we’d be having to be so vigilant, we were better off at home. However, we will take a rain check.
So what with going without the big family Christmas and the holiday to Byron Bay, it sounds like we’ll soon be wearing hessian sackcloth and truly going without. Some would say there’s growth and something strangely cleansing about all of this. You know, leading the simple life and all that. I’m not so sure. I get onto that devil of envy Facebook and see friends smiling away and having real holidays. Am I smiling back at them? What you you reckon? I haven’t stayed away from Facebook completely but it’s definitely not my friend right now.
Meanwhile, outside beckons. Not in a pleasant way though. It’s telling me to go for a walk. Exercise. That’s wonderful when I get there. However, it’s rather cosy at home in the air-conditioning and it’s muggy out. You can almost see the steam rising off the lawn. There’s good reason to go into a sort of comatosed limbo right now and wake up in March when it’s not so hot, muggy, and this covid peak they’re promising is gone. I can go into a crowded room of friends again with a mask and smile, hug and drink champagne without keeling over dead.
So, I’m probably not the best entertainment right now. However, I can recommend a good book. I loved reading Amanda Lohrey’s: The Labyrinth, and I’ve started reading Kay Warren’s: Choose Joy. I really should’ve been delving into that, because I’m been choosing to grumble instead. Well, grumble might be understating things a little but you get my drift.
Anyway, Geoff and I have been going on quite a few walks and even a trip to the Mt Penang Parklands, although the photos are still on my phone and in the pipeline, as the saying goes.
Well, I have to admit I’m proud of myself. I’ve been typing like crazy against the clock and thought that my hour was up but I still have 45 minutes to go. Well, of course, I still need to add a few photos and pretty it up a bit. I’ll even add a few links. Gee, you’re going to get all the bells and whistles now when I thought I might need to cut it short and come back later to finish it up.
This means I can now share my top ten songs for transitioning from 2021 to 2022:
I also shared a few insights into what Christmas 1921 was like after such a strange and challenging couple of years. Of course, we think we’re badly off and the world’s never known anything like this before, even though we’ve all heard of the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1919 and there was something about two world wars as well. However, why let truth get in the way of a good story? Anyway, I shared a letter English-Australian author Ethel Turner, wrote to Australian children in 1921 and a fundraising drive she organised, while also writing a post setting the political and cultural context. Our 2021 wasn’t so bad after all.
Anyway, I have vowed to be more organised next week. Actually do my Weekend Coffee Share on the weekend instead of Monday afternoon Sydney time.
Over the last couple of days, I’ve found myself caught in the ultimate avoidance device -the Never-ending O’Sullivan Maze.
Well, you might ask where and what on earth this is. If you’re looking for a physical address, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Hang on. There are actually physical addresses after all, but what this maze is referring to is nutting out my O’Sullivan family history and entering all these people into an online community at Wikitree. This is a free online database, which allows me to document and share my research and connect up with cousins without feeding the Ancestry machine. I am a great fan of the “free economy”.
Before I get stuck into the whys of the O’Sullivan Maze, I thought I’d launch off with the whats (or is it the whos?) Actually, it is a who. Who were the O’Sullivans? Next question: why do they matter?
Some would argue that they’re rather random and remote ancestors of mine. Although I don’t mention it very often on the blog, my surname is Curtin, although I’m actually known more by my married name, although I’ve only half-changed the legal documentation after 20 years of marriage. To reach the O’Sullivans, we need to go via the Curtins.
The story begins with John Curtin, who was my first Curtin ancestor to arrive in Australia. He was baptized on the 1st July, 1831 in the Parish of St Finbarr’s, City of Cork County Cork, the fourth child of Thomas Curtin a stevedore on Cork Harbour and Mary Scannell. On the 5th December, 1853 he sailed out of Liverpool as an Able Seaman on board The Scotia, and arrived in Sydney on the 2nd April, 1854.
On 5th September, 1855 John Curtin married Bridget O’Sullivan at the more humble, original St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney . John was aged 22 and Bridget was around 19 years old.
Bridget O’Sullivan was born around January, 1834 in Mallow, County Cork, Ireland to Daniel O’Sullivan and Mary Egan. They were living at Jones Lane, Mallow when she was baptised on the 20th January, 1834 by Father DM Collins who went on to become part of a delegation of Irish priests to lobby the English government for support during An Gorta Mor or the Great Hunger. Her sponsors were Edward Foley and Johanna Leary. Bridget had two younger sisters, Catherine and Mary Ann. The O’Sullivans sailed out of Plymouth on the 6th July, 1851 arriving in Sydney on the 8th October, 1851. Shipping records state Daniel O’Sullivan’s occupation as Farmer’s Labourer and Mary Ann was a dairywoman. Bridget was 15 years old. She could read and write and worked as a General Servant.
The O’Sullivans didn’t just come out to Australia because they had nothing better to do. Rather, there were probably two forces at work. Firstly, there was the An Gorta Mór (The Great Hunger or “Irish Famine”) 1845-1852, and the discovery of gold at Bathurst, NSW on the 12th February, 1851. When you put those two forces together, it was a no brainer. Moreover, Daniel’s brother David O’Sullivan, and Mary’s brother, Denis Egan, were already out here, and had paved the way.
That was how the O’Sullivan maze through Sydney’s Surry Hills and Paddington began. Around 1890, Daniel O’Sullivan’s brother, Denis and his wife Hanorah Cahill arrived in Sydney with their four children and youngest son, John Paul, was born in Sydney after they’d arrived. Their daughter Catherine Agatha married Thomas Edward Augustine Plasto on the 24th May, 1879 Sacred Heart Church, Randwick. They had six children before she died on the 25th November, 1891 and her husband went on to have an additional eleven children with his second wife. Fortunately, however, they’re not part of this maze, and the Plasto children were just the tip of the iceberg.
Anyway, before Denis and his family arrived on the scene, we had Bridget who had married John Curtin, and they had nine children. Before you start thinking they bred like rabbits populating Surry Hills, Paddington and beyond; three of their children died as infants.
Meanwhile, Bridget had her two sisters living nearby and I guess this is where I’m heading with this story…a story of three Irish sisters arriving in Surry Hills and the various ups and downs they and their descendants experienced. However, before I can really delve too much into the story, there’s the scaffolding of the actual family history and how these Irish families in Surry Hills and Paddington intermingled both genetically in families and as community. That’s what mathematicians refer to as the “working out”. You always need to be able to show your working out (if even if it’s as tedious and boring as those genealogical passages in the Bible.) You can’t just go from A to Z without being able to show how you got there.
I have no sisters. I don’t have any idea of what it is to have a sister, and I’m barely in touch with my brother. I don’t want to idealise these relationships or create a closeness that wasn’t there. After all, perhaps these sisters had some intractable falling out and while they almost lived on opposite street corners, perhaps the emotional distance was an impenetrable void.
That’s the trouble with writing non-fiction especially using real people with real names. Ideally, you somehow manage to walk in their shoes rather than turning them into a reproduction of yourself. Placing your stamp on their forehead. That is something I take rather seriously, and to be honest my efforts to reach the truth more often than not prevents me from writing anything at all.
Anyway, that’s not what I’m doing now. I’m transferring my who begat whom into this Wiki genealogy thing online. I don’t know why I started doing this. Well, I sort of do. I was talking to a friend and discovered a mutual connection via the Spora family and I was trying to nut it out. Bridget O’Sullivan’s niece, Johanna Maria Murphy, had married Gaetana “Frank” Spora and they’d had eight children. Three of their sons headed out to Rylstone near Orange taking the family out West. It’s interesting to see where all these various branches of our family tree headed of to.
As it turns out, our family also sounds like a roll call of Irish Australia: Curtin, O’Sullivan, McNamara, Murphy, Donovan, Maguire, Quealy, O’Neil. They lived on Crown, Fitzroy, Albion, Arthur, Campbell and Ann Streets Surry Hills and also in Paddington and Woollahra. My grandparents made the radical move of crossing over the Sydney Habour Bridge after they got married in 1940. They starting out in Mosman, and settled in Lindfield, a suburb which came to represent their house within the family. My father and most of his siblings married outside the Irish-Catholic fraternity, which could well be a good thing. I married Geoff from Tasmania, and even then my kids managed to gain an additional O’Sullivan to add to two from me. I am yet to find out if mine are related. However, the Great Great Grandfather from West Maitland was actually born in Albion Street Surry Hills and his mother was Mary Sullivan, daughter of John Sullivan and Mary Bourke also of Cork. Small world…!
Anyway, I blame the mad lunatic in me who is in self-imposed lockdown trying to avoid the covid menace for all of this. The official stats clocked up to a massive 45,098 cases today and the graph just keeps soaring straight up. It’s covid soup out there and our family is madly trying to prepare for the likelihood that someone is going to bring Covid home, and how we’re going to manage that seeming inevitability. I spent a few hours on Friday afternoon trying to access RATs (Rapid Antigen Tests). There’s been no mention ANYWHERE about making them available for people with disabilities and chronic health conditions. Trust me. I’ve looked. It’s like we don’t exist. Physically I can’t queue for half an hour let alone 4-5 hours, and if I don’t have it, I don’t want to catch it while I’m waiting either. We can’t take our kids to be tested either. Indeed, that is even more of a no-no. Perhaps, they’ll have to walk. Who knows? I could be reading books, going for walks, baking, playing my violin and yet for some mad reason, I started working on this. The only explanation I can come up with is escape. Pure escape. No one would ever think to find me here – corona virus included.
Do you have Irish heritage? Or perhaps you’re Irish yourself? Maybe you have noIrish blood whatsoever, but you’d still like to have a chat. You’re all welcome. The cricket ison the TV but I’m ignoring that, and I can offer you a cup of tea, some leftover gingerbread house, but it’s a bit more difficult to offer you a seat on the couch.