“Mummy, why do Charlie and I look the same on the outside, but are so different on the inside? You said we’re identical twins?!”
The twins were chalk and cheese. Charlotte was always staring out the window at goodness knows what…birds, the clouds, maybe she could even see something in the seemingly invisible air. Captivated by the old oil lamps, she found meaning in their flickering flames. Bridget loved to run. Charlotte’s side of the bedroom was pink with her books neatly filed in rainbow order. Bridget’s was a cyclone.
Sophie couldn’t offer any explanation and simply said: “Ask God.”
This week, I’m going to make you a pot of English Breakfast Tea and make you a Marmalade Sandwich and we can pretend we’re the late Queen Elizabeth and Paddington Bear having lunch together at Buckingham Palace.
It’s hard for me to know quite what to say about the death of the Queen. She’s been the monarch for 70 years and at the very least, she’s been a constant all that time at least in terms of being a portrait in our school halls, classrooms, scout and guide halls etc seemingly watching everything that’s going on and being a part of things, yet not. It’s going to be very strange to see King Charles III there instead, especially when I’m a Republican. Personally, I think it’s time to have an Australian as our Head of State and quite frankly I don’t want to see them to have the same ubiquitous presence the Queen has always had. She was quite an exceptional human being, stuck to the straight and narrow and was a worthy role model and leader. Most of us are a lot more human and so many leaders both in and out of politics have let us down. It would be good to move on.
Meanwhile, we’re coming into Spring here. I’ve heard the local Waratahs are back in flower and I’ll have to drive out and have a look. They’re about ten minutes away and simply growing beside the road. We’ve also seen groves of golden wattle in bloom, which is absolutely beautiful. This is all a reminder to keep your eyes open to the positives around you, even when the going gets tough. There’s always something to make you smile and radiate joy!
Speaking of joy, we’re actually very happy and relieved to still have Lady, our Cavalier x Border Collie still with us. Last Sunday she vomited and the next day she went off her food and was barely moving. I had no idea what was going on with her and after her carrying her out to bed, didn’t expect her to be with us in the morning. However, there she was at the back door wagging her tail and full of beans. Far from being sick, she was actually more lively than usual. I was most surprised. We’re not real good at keeping track of how old our dogs are. Probably because we really don’t want to know. As we all know, they speed through life seven times faster than us and that’s a tough thing to contend with. However, we think she’s about eleven or twelve so she’s older than she looks.
On Friday morning, I was in the process of waking up when Miss came in to tell me that the Queen had died.
There was a long pause as I processed the news.
Indeed, how could I process that news when there had been no precedent in my lifetime?
The Queen has always been there.
Not just over there either. She came out to Australia 16 times, although I never went to see her. However, my husband Geoff had that honour, although he barely remembers it. When the Queen toured Australia in March 1977, an eleven year old Geoff went down to Hobart with his older married sister to see her. The Queen clearly made a huge impression on young Geoff. All he remembers is buying his first guinea pig “Fifi” down there and taking her home. Apparently, his mother was “not amused”.
Reflecting on my own memories of the Queen over the last couple of days, probably my strongest memory is having her portrait hanging in our school hall, as it still does in schools and all sorts of buildings around Australia and the Commonwealth. I didn’t question it at the time. The Queen was simply everywhere in this subtle way which was largely unconscious and flying right under the radar. However, in a macabre way, it’s like she was watching us all those years and like the Mona Lisa, had eyes which not only followed us around the room, but through life. She was simply always there.
However, for many of us, our relationship with the Queen and the monarchy is complex. For starters, I’m a Republican and I don’t like what colonialism has done to First Nations people around the world. Australia had been deemed terra nullius (or unoccupied) by the English when they came here and the Aboriginal people were classed under flora and fauna and weren’t counted in the Australian census until 1971. Now, the Queen is a figurehead and couldn’t interject in politics, but it raises a significant question mark in my thinking.
Here in Australia, we also had The Dismissal in 1975. When I was only six years old, Australia was rocked by an seismic constitutional shock. Gough Whitlam, our democratically elected Prime Minister was sacked by the Queen’s appointed representative, Governor-General Sir John Kerr, who then appointed the opposition leader, Malcolm Fraser, as Prime Minister of the caretaker government. While I’m really not sure how much say the Queen had in all of this and I believe it was minimal, it was quite a shock to many Australians who thought we’d come of age, that the so-called “mother country” could step in like that. Not unsurprisingly, Gough Whitlam didn’t go quietly either! On the steps of the then Australian Parliament House he famously said:
Well may we say “God save the Queen”, because nothing will save the Governor-General!
Whitlam’s words immediately became legend, and they still air routinely on TV and maybe even at the odd BBQ. I had a friend back in the day who used to have a few too many drinks and quote Gough at parties. Indeed, I can clearly remember him quoting Gough and falling spectacularly into my parents’ swimming pool fully clothed right on cue. There is obviously a very long story behind that and the rights and wrongs of what happened way back then, but I will mention that an election was held and the Australian people voted in Malcolm Fraser and the Liberal Party by a clear majority.
Then, along came Lady Diana Spencer. The entire world was dazzled and the Queen along with Prince Charles headed backstage. I’d just turned twelve when they got married on the 29th July, 1981 and the entire world went mad with Diana fever (except for Prince Charles as it later turned out). I madly cut out photos and stories of Diana and pasted them in an exercise book. We all wore blouses with Diana’s trademark bow tied at the neck. One of my friends also had the misfortune of being carted off to the hairdresser to get a Lady Diana haircut which didn’t suit her at all and took years to grow out. Princess Diana’s light shone so bright that the Queen seemed pretty dull by comparison.
However, then, the Queen got the job of sorting out the fall out from two family divorces followed by the shocking tragic death of Princess Diana and her absent silence. The House of Windsor really seemed to be teetering on the brink then. Yet, in hindsight, she was actually putting her family first focusing on the needs of those boys who had lost their mum. So, what appeared to be cold and heartless to the public at the time, was actually incredibly compassionate and humane.
Some time after the death of Princess Diana, the Queen seemed to find a second wind and her popularity started to soar. Indeed, she started to capture the public affection in a way her mother had done and she almost seemed to become everyone’s second grandmother while still commanding respect as Queen. Indeed, my all time favourite footage of the Queen was with her having tea with Paddington Bear at Buckingham Palace during her Platinum Jubilee. I absolutely loved it, especially when she pulled the jam sandwich out of her trademark handbag. Who hasn’t had a jam sandwich at some point in their lunchbox at school and she was so sweet and relatable and it will be such a delightful treasure for her family to pass onto future generations.
Yet, there was so much more to the Queen.
Too much more to refer to it all here.
However, I’d particularly like to draw attention to her war service during World War II. There was also her and Margaret’s delight celebrating VE Day and leaving the balcony of Buckingham Palace and mixing incognito with the people, which she described as one of the best times of her life.
It is also admirable that as a young 25 year old embraced duty and her destiny and rose up to be an exemplary Queen and world leader.`
The Queen was also a working mother in an era where most mothers stayed at home and she helped open the door for working mothers around the world.
Since Her Majesty passed away, I have been drawn towards her many weighty words of wisdom and have come to appreciate her unfathomable depth, integrity and faith. She has so much to teach us, even now that she’s gone. After all, she reached the age of 96 very well lived years. She had met so many, many people and travelled so extensively around the world and absorbed so much. She was an absolute treasure and fortunately she’s left an enormous legacy behind.
Last night, I watched a fabulous documentary: Elizabeth : The Unseen Queen Have you seen it? I highly recommend it. The Queen talks you through numerous home movies and shares her wisdom on life, which is really worth pausing on and processing for yourself. I didn’t really come across her incredible wisdom during her lifetime, but now I’ve found it, I’m holding on and digging deeper. She is an outstanding and very human role model for us all. After all, she lived through almost a century of world history, but she was also a daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and friend. She also lived with an incredibly strong faith, which seemingly breathed life and hope into every nook and cranny of her incredibly rich and complex life. While she certainly had her standards and there were always very strict protocols about approaching the Queen and how she was to be treated, despite her incredible wealth and world standing, at least I don’t believe she was ever too big for her boots, and she kept walking.
This resilience is perhaps her most admirable quality of all. Whatever happened around and within her, she kept going. She kept performing her duty and greeting the red box daily with enthusiasm and a smile. We all could learn a lot from that. Indeed, as we do experience a sense of grief, we can think about what we have personally learned from Her Majesty and what we’re going to carry forward.
How do you feel following Her Majesty’s passing? Do you have any special memories? Or, have you written something yourself? If so, please leave a link in the comments. It’s so good to share our thoughts at a time like this and come together.
Yesterday, was Father’s Day here in Australia. Unfortunately, my parents have colds so we couldn’t go round to see them. However, we were able to focus on Geoff and went to Church as a family for the first time in about 18 months (due to covid) and out for dinner to a fabulous local Indian restaurant. We couldn’t finish it off, and brought the leftovers home so the east will continue tonight albeit more of a nibble. Indeed, I’m about to head out to buy some more chicken to cook up with my leftover sauce.
Did you celebrate Father’s Day where you are? I also understand that it’s a day of reflection and grief for many so if that’s you, I send you a hug and my thoughts.
As you may recall, Geoff and I went to Bathurst what is like three weeks ago now, and I’m still in the very early stages of writing up about our trip here on the blog. I’m also wanting to write some freelance articles as well, but decided to write these posts for the blog first and use them as a launching pad.
However, my third post about a trio of marble sculptures in Machattie Park has become very complicated taking me down numerous deep and meandering research burrows without really feeling confident about the basic facts like who made the sculptures, and how they came to reside in a fernery in a park in Bathurst 200 km WNW of Sydney. My quest has taken me back to the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879 where a swag of nations set up camp and showed of their national achievements. In addition to the main exhibition hall in the Garden Palace a separate art gallery was built and two out of three of these sculptures were displayed there and bought by the Art Gallery of NSW who went on to loan them to the city of Bathurst to put in their you beaut park with the band rotunda and massive fountain. By the way, the sculptor was Giovanni Fontana who was a well-known Italian sculptor at the time, who was commissioned to produce a number of public sculptures in Sydney. So far, I’ve been able to trace back the providence of two out of three of the statues but the third one is eluding me and I’ve lost myself down so many rabbit burrows as I said just trying to put the basics together, that I’ve ended up terribly lost and confused to the point of losing what I actually know. Have you ever experienced that?
Meanwhile, the other big news around here, is that Miss sprained her ankle last Friday night at dance. When it happened, they all heard a loud snap and they were really concerned she’d broken it. I missed a call from an unknown number just as I was meeting up with friends, and that turned out to be her dance teacher. They rang Geoff instead who was at home and so he drew the short straw of taking her to Gosford Hospital for hours on end while we waited and prayed for a verdict and I was going through all her dance commitments in my head and wondering how bad this was going to be and the implications of it all. I was also rather concerned about how she was responding to all of this psychologically. For a mere mortal, a sprained ankle is a painful inconvenience but for a ballerina, it can so easily feel like the end of the world. However, fortunately the timing is fairly good and she doesn’t have anything big right away. Her dance teacher has also referred her to special physio, which is probably going hurt us more in terms of the bank account, but you do what you’ve got to do.
“Curiouser and curiouser!” is how I’ve felt about Bathurst’s Machattie Park since returning home. Two weeks ago, I had no idea this park even existed and my awareness of landscape design was also minimal. Indeed, I’m even one of those dreadful plant murderers who should be banned from buying plants altogether.
“Not all who wander are lost.”
Alice in Wonderland
Yet, now I find myself travelling down all sorts of rabbit holes (like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland on steroids) exploring every nook and cranny of Machattie Park. Not only that. I’ve even found myself nipping over to France in a virtual sense to explore a myriad of magnificent historical gardens to gain a deeper understanding of its layout. Apparently, the park was designed in the “French style” whatever that meant. I am certainly none the wiser, but at least I’m enjoying the journey.
Located between William, George, Russell, and Keppel streets;Machattie Park forms the graphical and cultural heart of Bathurst. Machattie Park was opened on Saturday 20th December, 1890 – a whopping 132 years ago when my Great Grandmother was two years old and I wasn’t even a distant dream. Fortunately, the park has been very well preserved and has only experienced minor change since then. Indeed, a visit to Machattie Park feels like stepping out of a time machine, and I could even picture myself wearing period dress promenading with my parasol back in the day.
When you look at the park today, it’s hard to imagine that it was ever the site of the former gaol. After the gaol was relocated, this space was known by the inauspicious title of: “Gaol Reserve”. Although it was used as a sports’ ground by the local schools, the crumbling foundations of the former gaol remained and it was a far cry from what we see today. However, the people of Bathurst under the leadership of the Progress Association, has vision and campaigned for the site to be transformed into a spectacular park with all the bells and whistles. When he opened the park, Mayor Crago expressed their grand ambitions for Bathurst and how the park was to play a central part in making Bathurst shine: “The park will henceforth he one of the landmarks of the city and the most beautiful spot in Bathurst, enabling us to hope that eventually our city will become the Ballarat of New South Wales1.”
While touching on the opening of the park, I found another gem this time in Dr Spencer’s speech, who was the President of the Progress Association. While these sentiments were no doubt said in earnest at the time, they certainly made me laugh today and it reminds me of my rather posh private school where we weren’t allowed to walk on the grass:
“Now please remember this, and I speak especially to the intelligent and independent youth of Bathurst, those young men who will in the future guide public opinion. Let me tell them that they will not succeed in life unless they keep off the grass, and that no dogs are admitted. These regulations are for the benefit of all, and will be cheerfully obeyed by everyone with a spark of intelligence and good nature.2”
So, what is it like to walk through Machattie Park today? I guess I should also put a particularly emphasis on TODAY. As far as I could tell, most if not all of the trees in Machattie Park are deciduous. So, he park varies considerably from season to season. We were there in late Winter when the trees were stripped of their leaves forming bare skeletons against the muted sky. However, the daffodils and jonquils were in flower and looking particularly stunning.
Yet, despite the seasons, Machattie Park has a peculiar charm, serenity and spirit which extends well beyond just “going to the park” or “being in the great outdoors.” Even on our rushed walk through, I felt an uncharacteristic sense of peace and calm, despite almost rushing around trying to absorb it all through my camera lens. There I was bending down to photograph the daffodils and jonquils. Next minute, I glace up and spot the fountain and I’m off again zooming in to capture what I now understand to be dolphins, but which looked more like feral carp to me. Then there was the band rotunda, which was known as the Music Temple. It was hard not to notice the Federation-style Gardeners’ Cottage on my right either with its roof tiles which came all the way from Marseilles, France. However, before I knew it, we were inside the Fernery and gob smacked by a trio of marble statues by Giovanni Fontana. As if all of this wasn’t sufficient fodder for my camera, there was also the very quaint Munro Drinking fountain which was erected in 1901. All of that was a lot to take in. Yet, as I said, the park was strangely relaxing at the same time.
Above: The Fernery. The sculptures were by Giovanni Fontana.
Naturally, I’m not the only one who has found peace and tranquility in Machattie Park. Browsing through the historic newspapers online, I came across this reference from the Bathurst Times on the 16th October, 1909:
“And now that the fountain on the main basin is spraying, it is almost like listening to a small waterfall or cascade. When one feels run down and tired, it is well worth while to put ones troubles on one side; sit down in Machattie Park and listen to the drip, drip, drip, and the splash and hissing of the water as it soothes, and lulls and — just then one’s book drops down, and then comes peace — perfect peace.3.”
I absolutely loved that account! It was so poetic!
Of course, I was just a traveler passing through Machattie Park. There are locals who would have so much more to say about it, and know it much more intimately, of course, having spent all of their lives in Bathurst. I can well imagine them sitting the park feeding the ducks, listening to the band or attending Carols By Candlelight with their parents or grandparents and now doing the same with their children or grandchildren. No doubt, there’s also been a lot of romance in Machattie Park over the years too…that magic twinkle in the eye and perhaps a return to the park for solace with a broken heart. There’s certainly a real sense of timelessness visiting Machattie Park.
Well, that’s the end of our tour through Machattie Park. Now, it’s over to you. Have you ever been to Machattie Park and do you have any stories you’d like to share? Or, perhaps you have a and park near you, you’d like to share? Or, perhaps even your own magnificent garden? I’d love to hear from you.
After spending days revisiting and researching Machattie Park, I’m needing to quote White Rabbit:
“I’m late, I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say ‘hello, goodbye,’ I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!”