Tag Archives: ship

Weekend Coffee Share: 11th April, 2022.

Welcome To Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you all? I hope you are all well, and I thought you might like to join my friend Heather and I at a local live music venue called Link & Pin at Woy Woy. I used to go to this venue in it’s previous incarnation as a cafe and florist with my mother and kids. It’s just across the road from the train station and was particularly good when we were doing an exchange with the kids when they were younger. I think it was closed for a bit while it was being renovated and along came covid. We still have covid, but we’re supposed to be quite comfortable hanging out with covid everywhere we go, and believing it will be little more than a sniffle if we do get it. I like this venue because it’s outdoors. Well, that’s from a covid perspective. However, I also like listening to music in a relaxed smoke-free easy going venue and it also has plenty of personality or character. It’s the sort of place I’d expect to find perhaps in Sydney’s inner city around Glebe perhaps. Or, at least, the Glebe I used to know many years ago now where I used to watch a band called Paris Dumper at the Naggs’ Head on a Friday night. However, that was several lifetimes ago.

The band we saw today was called the Blind Pilots. I have no idea how they came by the name, and I guess I should be grateful that I was hearing them perform at Link & Pin and not hearing the announcement: “Your Captains today are the blind pilots”. Whether they can’t see or they’re incredibly drunk, you don’t want them flying you anywhere! Anyway, I enjoyed their music and anybody who’s known me for awhile would be surprised to see me there. I’m more of a classical violinist and tend to play Bach, and I’ve also spent much of the last week watching my daughter dance at the studio during open week. I’m actually surprised I had any watching capacity left, but being part of the audience isn’t a passive activity. It’s interactive and you need to give back to the performers as well. Not just clap at the end on autopilot either, but get into it. Smile, observe, indeed, absorb the whole experience. You might even tap your foot, and as long as Geoff isn’t with me, it doesn’t matter if I have terrible rhythm.

My grandmother, Eunice Gardiner, at the Australian Embassy in Washington in 1948.

I can actually understand why I enjoyed going to a band today. Last week, I received a message that my grandmother had been part of a TV interview panel when singer Paul Robeson visited Australian in 1960, and I contacted the ABC archives and they sent me the file. I did know that she’d performed with Paul Robeson in London in the late 1930s but I knew nothing about him. Well, that’s all changed. He was a world famous Afro-American singer and actor who had also qualified as a lawyer. Yet, his father had been a slave who escaped in his teens and fought for the North in the Civil War and went on to become a pastor. Paul Robeson developed close ties with the Soviet Union and even sent his son to school there for awhile because it didn’t have the racism present in the United States. Unfortunately, this put him under the microscope during the 1950’s in the McCarthy era. His passport was withdrawn for ten years. The interview was recorded on the 5th November, 1960, and broadcast 13th November, 1960. To give you some idea of the context of the interview, three days after the recording on the 8th November, 1960 the US elections were held and JFK won the US presidency against then US Vice-President Richard Nixon. Harper Lee’s novel: To Kill A Mockingbird was published on the 11th July, 1960, although it didn’t seem to attract attention in Australia until after the movie was released. It was just under three years before Dr Martin Luther King’s famous  “I Have a Dream” speech which followed a march by over 200,000 people on Washington on the 28th August, 1963. Anyway, it was quite interesting, astounding even, to see my grandmother, who was an international concert pianist and music critic on this panel. I decided the interview was so important that I decided to transcribe it verbatim and now I’m regretting it. It’s all so complex, and every word is so important and has to be exact. No “near enough is good enough” unfortunately. I’ve written it out. Typed it up and now I’m at the gruesome checking stage and there’s still writing all over the page. Yet, there are so many pearls in there just not about equality, but also musical composition, and every now and then I fancy myself as a song writer and he’s right into the pentatonic scale, which is sort of a musician’s ABC. Oh well. I am starting to believe ignorance is bliss. Or, that I can just stick to the words while someone else takes care of the tune. Or, I can just keep researching with writing up my results getting 95% of the way and finding it all a bit too hard and exiting stage left. BTW I am actually working on that!

Meanwhile, I’ve done two posts about our son’s trip onboard the Young Endeavour.

Prior to trying to transcribe this TV interview, I was working on collating my 100 word flash fiction efforts. That’s going fairly well. Here is this week’s contribution to Friday Fictioneers:

Anyway, our daughter is on school holidays for the next two weeks. There’s a dance competition this week, and then we have Easter next weekend.

Well, that’s left you all with an eclectic array of things to explore. Meanwhile, for those of you who celebrated Easter, I wish you a blessed Easter.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Grit & Determination Onboard the Young Endeavour

“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”

-Vincent Van Gogh

Since our son returned from his voyage onboard STS Young Endeavour, we’ve had so many chats, and I’ve literally been squeezing out every last detail. Strangely, I haven’t even needed to coerce. He’s been surprisingly chatty and responsive to my endless questions. I have an insatiable curiosity, and after being in lockdown or isolation for so long, he was a marked man.

Despite all these stories and conversations, this is how he summed the trip up in a nutshell: “no words can describe the rollercoaster it was”.

Meanwhile, what I would like to say at the outset, is how proud I am of him and all the other Youthies onboard. That’s not just proud Mumma speak. While they had a lot of fun, they had some tough life lessons onboard, particularly when three of their number tested positive to covid three days before they were due to disembark, and had to leave the ship early. It must’ve been devastating for those who left, but the camaraderie among the group meant that it deeply affected them all. They were “one for all, and all for one”, and I was really touched by their empathy and compassion.

So here’s a bit of an overview of some of the challenges our intrepid youthies faced during their voyage.

It’s a long way to the top – the Young Endeavour moored in Geelong. Photo: Geoff Newton

Probably, the most obvious challenge when you first see the Young Endeavour, is height. It’s a very long way to the top of the mast. While I doubt anyone with a serious fear of heights would do the trip in the first place, that’s not to say these daredevils didn’t face some trepidation. While they were up there, they were balanced on nothing more than a wire tightrope, while they furled and unfurled the sails and they were heavy. However, this crew was apparently pretty good, and they had all been up before leaving Port Phillip Bay. Well done!

“The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.”

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

View out the porthole

Another big challenge was also clearly identified before he left. That was no mobile phone, WIFI, Internet…the works! All of these were banned onboard. Surviving without social media probably wasn’t going to be his battle. However, as a gamer, we thought going cold turkey on this front was going to be tough. Yet, he hasn’t mentioned that at all.

“You can never cross the ocean until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Christopher Columbus

Physical fitness was also a serious concern. I’d watched the promotional video and it looked very physical furling and unfurling the sails. It would be too late once they were onboard and had raised the anchor to have second thoughts: “Let me off. I’ve changed my mind!!” They were committed. However, they were not alone. They were going through this very steep learning curve together and they had the “staffies” onboard. They were headed by inspirational Captain Adam “Charlie” Farley who might’ve had his official whites on for boarding and disembarking, but the rest of the time he was wearing the blue shirt like the rest of them and was inspiring alongside rather than from above. (By the way, he was the only one who managed to do a backflip off the boat while they were in Jervis Bay, and apparently he was as smooth as a “swan”.) He also stuck a motivational quote on the fridge every day.

Captain Adam “Charlie” Farley welcoming the “youthies” onboard in Geelong.

“Seasickness: at first you are so sick you are afraid you will die, and then you are so sick you are afraid you won’t die.”

— Mark Twain

Meanwhile, seasickness wasn’t something we’ve given any consideration until we watched the informational videos. Our son has sailed for many years, and has never shown any sign of seasickness before. However, this trip was much more challenging what with crossing Bass Strait and being out at sea. Given that their website had dedicated an entire video to the subject, it wasn’t something to ignore. https://www.facebook.com/YoungEndeavour/videos/1018219102114384

Fortunately, he was only sick once after eating too much breakfast. However, things weren’t pretty for some of the others on Day Two while they were crossing notorious Bass Strait, and the sea was rolling like a Bucking Bronco. Naturally, this wasn’t pretty, and I’ll spare you most of the details. However, he did mention there was a “Red Sea” flowing through the ship, which reminded me of that famous scene from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life featuring Mr Creosote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczPDGC3f8U (watch at your own risk).

Yet, despite their ordeal, the Captain’s Log reported that the youthies still performed their duties, which sounds incredibly commendable. Yet, while it would be easy to feel sorry for them, all of this struggle was what they’d signed up for… throwing themselves against the elements to develop that much desired trait…resilience. Of course, resilience has never been served up on a silver platter, and only comes once you’ve stretched yourself well beyond breaking point. My dad used to call this “putting hair on your chest”. So, all these youthies must be woolly mammoths by now!

However, as bad as the seasickness was for some, there was a popular antidote…the humble Sao biscuit. Our son described them as “the wonder food of seasickness”. Indeed, written underneath the bunk above him were the words: “Saos are king”. In case you’ve never encountered a Sao biscuit, it’s very plain, and would be kind to a troubled tummy. The fact that something as plain and ordinary as a Sao biscuit could save the day, goes to show that a big problem doesn’t necessarily require a big solution.

Youthies on Floral Shirt Friday

Another consideration I had, was how roughly 20 young strangers aged 16 to 23 were going to coexist for nine days in a very confined space without erupting. Being stuck on the same boat for so long could be rather fractious, and I did address this with him before he left. However, it was actually quite the reverse. As I explained earlier, they all got on incredibly well and really looked out for each other. It’s also worth mentioning that they didn’t stay onboard the ship for the full nine days and they broke it up a bit with some activities on land.

Homesickness was another possibility. Our son has been away on Scout camps and Jamboree before, so I wasn’t expecting him to get terribly homesick. However, some of the others were younger and especially with covid around, haven’t been away from home all that much. You don’t have to be a sook to get a bit homesick, especially given the physical challenges of the journey.

In addition to the challenges, our son also shared details of the voyage.

They did a bit of singing onboard. Singing was also a bit of a thing onboard and the Captain’s Log mentioned them singing John Lennon’s Imagine, which must’ve been so moving out there at sea. J. also told me that when they were waking someone up to go on a watch, they sang a variation of The Wiggles’ song: “Toot Toot Chugga Chugga Big Red Car”: “toot toot chugga chugga big blue boat”, and by the end of the voyage, they’d call out: “Wake up Charlie” (the name of the Captain and a reference to Wake up, Jeff also from the Wiggles).

Source: Young Endeavour

He also made a reference to them being told to “use your Navy voice”, and that they had to raise their voices to be heard. That made me laugh. When he was younger, he was always being told to “use his inside voice”, and bring the volume down. How times have changed!

“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.”

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Meanwhile, although I thought the storytelling driving home in the car was amazing, it was nothing compared to having him bring up my good old friend Google Earth and for a virtual experience. He took me from Geelong out through the Heads of Port Melbourne and across the notorious Rip all with a click of the mouse. From there, they’d sailed across Bass Strait where they saw quite a few islands, dolphins and fed a lot of fish. Then, they anchored in Refuge Bay, which was a welcome relief from the rough seas and seasickness. They sailed up along the continental shelf reaching Jervis Bay and then onto Sydney’s Watson’s Bay where I think they spent a few days. They spent their final night moored near Taronga Park Zoo being serenaded by the elephants. I recorded the whole experience, and wished I could’ve been there. Somehow, being a couch sailor isn’t the same.

“To me, the sea is a continual miracle; The fishes that swim–the rocks–the motion of the waves–the ships, with men in them, What stranger miracles are there?”

– Walt Whitman

Me and my boy. Oops I mean man.

These were apparently the Captain’s parting words:

“You leave with new skills, improved persistence, resilience and adaptability, as well as generally knowing you are more capable than what you probably thought. And of course, having made great new friends – most probably, friends for life”

-Captain Adam “Charlie” Farley

There is so much more that could be said, and perhaps I’ve focused a bit too heavily on the hurdles they’ve overcome rather than the fun, especially since one of my motivations is to encourage other young people to sign up. Yet, despite or perhaps because of these hardships, our son has emerged a much more confident and optimistic version of himself with a pile of gripping stories, and a swag of new friends. Indeed, even a week down the track, he still remains exhilarated.

I wonder what it means when you sail into a rainbow…

Lastly, I would like to thank everyone who made this trip not only possible, but also such a success. No doubt so much has gone on behind the scenes, and we are incredibly grateful.

Before I head off, here are a couple of videos you might enjoy and if you or someone you know has been onboard STS Young Endeavour, I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.

Best wishes,

Rowena

https://www.facebook.com/YoungEndeavour/videos/389567701984131

Weekend Coffee Share – 4th April, 2022.

Welcome To Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Miracles do happen! We are experiencing two consecutive days of sunshine and I’m almost beside myself after that eternity of rain. I’m surprised I’m not outside soaking up some rays, but I have a few things to do, and even in Autumn the midday sun can be a bit much, and I’ll head out later this afternoon.

So, what tickles your fancy? Tea, coffee or something more exotic?

How was your week?

Last week, was pretty incredible for me.

Above: The Young Endeavour sailing in to dock.

The excitement and dramas began last Monday night when we received a surprise call from our son onboard the Young Endeavour. He wasn’t allowed to use his phone onboard and they had no WIFI access, so we weren’t expecting to hear from him at all while they were away. Of course, that should’ve alerted me to something being wrong. However, he was in good spirits and it wasn’t one of the “Navy Higher-ups” calling on his behalf to say he’d fallen from the top of the mast and was incapacitated. However, the news wasn’t good and I should’ve been expecting the clanger. That morning, they’d all had covid RATs, and three of the youth crew known as “youthies” had tested positive and had to leave the ship. Fortunately, they’d already arrived in Sydney and were docked off Watson’s Bay at the time. So, although their journey was cut short, they did manage to complete the journey from Geelong to Sydney. The news hit the crew hard, as even in those brief seven days they’d bonded really well and had become one. Obviously, there was also the question of whether the rest of them would come down with it either onboard or when they arrived home. Golly, don’t you hate how covid just has to go and rain on your parade?!! Meanwhile, there were even implications for us parents. We wouldn’t be allowed on the base to greet the ship and be a part of their disembarking ceremony, although we could watch them land from the nearby Coal Loader Wharf which had a breath-taking view across the Harbour towards Balmain and Birchgrove (we were out of sight of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.) My parents and our daughter were all planning to be there. However, Dad is having an operation today and had to pass a RAT and be well) and our daughter has a lot of school assessments and dance commitments. We’ve managed to avoid covid so far, and were hopeful that him being triple vaxed and the power of prayer would spare him (and it did). Meanwhile, we cleared out the caravan in case, but he’s mostly been confined to his room.

Youthies on Floral Shirt Day

Of course, for a storyteller like myself, the return of the sailor was a bonanza and fortunately he was really chatty and didn’t object to a gazillion questions from mum, while I was hastily writing down everything he said as close for word to word as I could. I’m a pretty rapid notetaker so I was more than up for the task. Then, we rang my Dad who sails and so was well versed to ask him pertinent sailing questions and I jotted all his replied down there. By this stage, I had pages of notes and was feeling pretty chuffed. However, this was only the beginning and I’m now behind and have pages to type up. I had another win when he got onto Google Earth and took me on the journey from Geelong to Sydney and telling me stories of what happened along the way. Unlike his mother, he has really good navigational skills, and he was very specific abut where they’d stopped. Btw I thought you’d love to hear that they were moored near Taronga Park Zoo on their last night, and he could hear the elephants trumpeting, especially at 8.00am for some reason and he could also see the seal show.

However, the return of Popeye the Sailor wasn’t our only news this week. We actually had quite a busy weekend. On Saturday, it was Open Day at the dance studio and they gave us a sneak peak into the excerpt of Swan Lake they’ll be performing at production later this year. Miss also performed her new ballet solo for the first time, and it was also her first time wear her new tutu. I was absolutely dazzled, although it seemed strange because I’m so used to the old ballet solo and it’s a very different look. It will be really good to see it when she competes in the competition in a few weeks’ time up on stage and under lights.

That afternoon, I drove up to Long Jetty about 30 minutes or so away where my cousins were holding their studio opening. Gina and Katie are sisters. Katie’s business is Mudita Collective https://www.mudita.com.au/. I must admit it’s funny seeing my younger cousins all grown up and a real businesswoman. This is how she describes what she does: “Inspired by nature’s earthy tones and bohemian vibes, Mudita bursts with femininity and whimsical feels. All of our fabrics are ethically sourced and produced by talented artisans.” Meanwhile, I quite fancied this article from her blog about salvaging your old clothing and turning it into beeswax wraps. I see so much beautiful fabric at the charity shops in clothing that’s too small for me. It’s often really cheap, and I have bought a few pieces with grand ambitions of rebirthing them. So, perhaps making these beeswax wraps might be the way to go. You can read about it here: https://www.mudita.com.au/blogs/mudita-blog/upcycle-your-old-clothing-with-beeswax-wraps

Meanwhile, Katie’s sister, Gina’s business Ginagee Creations has a completely different vibe. This is how Gina describes herself:

“Ginagee creations is a reflection of my creative journey. This forever evolving array of hand-crafted pieces started from a very young time in my life where I was drawing, sewing and crocheting. The more I created, the more I was able to learn and grow as I explored new techniques and ancient crafts. I have not stuck to one particular idea or craft. I am constantly expanding and trying new things to make unique creations. Combined with a deep passion for mother earth, I also source as much sustainable, local, recycled, second-hand materials as I can, so I leave less impact on this precious land. It also allows me to bring a second life and a story into my handmade treasures.” https://www.ginagee.com.au/

Yesterday, the action continued when I went for a picnic on the waterfront with some friends. It was wonderful to see them again.

So, as you can see, I’ve been out and about a lot more this week, but with covid still around, this will probably be more the exception than the rule.

Meanwhile, you might like to join us over at the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Off On The Young Endeavour.

This afternoon at 1600 hours, our son set sail on board the Young Endeavour out of Geelong bound for Sydney on what’s going to be the adventure of a lifetime, and we’ll be collecting him in nine days time in Sydney. Just to put you in the mood, check this video of the trip out: https://www.facebook.com/YoungEndeavour/videos/389567701984131

Our story begins back in January 2017 (now Five years ago), when we went to see the Young Endeavour in Stanley, Tasmania while we were on holidays. Aside from our daughter, we’re a sailing family and my Dad also sails. So, we were pretty keen to check her out.

The Young Endeavour in Stanley January 2017.

However, the weather conditions at the time were pretty treacherous. Stanley is on Bass Strait between Australia and the Australian Mainland, and it gets rough. It also gets very windy, and Stanley was blowing at her best that day. All of this meant we weren’t allowed on board. However, we did have a chance to speak to some of the youth team, and we heard about the ballot system which is used to secure yourself a berth. It all sounded like an unlikely gamble, and what were his chances of being lucky enough to be drawn out of the hat? However, to use another hat analogy again, you’ve got to throw your hat into the ring to stand a chance. I made a mental note to myself to make sure we didn’t forget to apply when he was old enough.

Jonathon in the Australia Day Regatta

Recently, while I was sorting through some paperwork, I came across the postcard we’d picked up in Stanley and places were open. I didn’t need a second thought. I was filling out the paperwork online and I can’t even remember whether I asked him about it. I probably did. However, a set of car keys was missing at the time, and he was otherwise occupied. Besides, I didn’t really expect him to be offered a place straight away, and if he was ever going to be lucky enough to get a spot, it might take a few years. However, the very next day I received an email. He was in. He was really excited and thrilled to be doing it. So, it was full speed ahead.

There was just one very small minor detail which remained. He had to pass a PCR covid test last Friday, and what I didn’t know, is that he also needed to pass a RAT this morning before he could board. So, there was every chance that after winning the lottery to get a spot, he might be let down just as he was about to board. Fortunately, I think they all passed, but wouldn’t that have been awful to have your dream go up in smoke like that at the last minute?!! (Covid has a lot to answer for!!) However, that was all good, and at 3.00pm (known as 1500 hours in Navy lingo) he climbed on board.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t be there in person because Miss had a dance audition locally. However, Geoff compensated very nicely by having me on FaceTime and I was standing with him dockside watching him climb on board, having a bit of a welcome ceremony including introductions, and then they raised the gangplank, untied the ropes and motored off into the pending sunset. (I must say I was surprised a replica of The Endeavour came with a motor, but I bet there are lots of mod cons on board belying the outward appearance and history of the ship.)

The Young Endeavour, Geelong, at sunset over the weekend.

The ship itself is under the command of members of the Royal Australian Navy, but the young sailors or “Youthies” as they’re called, are trained up along the way and on the final day, they take charge of the ship, which sounds both thrilling and terrifying. In addition to the regular staff and the youth, there are also two naval staff doing a “suitability voyage”. Staff are assigned to the Young Endeavour for 18 months to two years, and they’re on board to see if they’d like it, and there was a comment: “No pressure guys. Just a ten day interview”. I was also pleased they have a navigator on board, even though poor Mister has been needing to give his grandmother and myself directions since he was just a little tacker.

In addition to all the sailing aspects of the trip, there are also some additional details which, as my Dad used to say will “put hair on his chest”. First and foremost, they’re not allowed to access their mobile phones on board. Now, just think about how that would impact most of us. For many, it could well be on par with giving up smoking cold turkey. Mister is also a gamer. So, none of that for a week either. Now, you’re talking about serious deprivation. However, the flipside of that will be liberty, conversation and face-to-face interaction. They’ll also be climbing straight up a vertical cliff metaphorically speaking but they’re all in it together, which should foster strong bonds. However, after nine days, probably also some irritation factor too. I hope they all packed their deodorant.

For those of you with an interest in sailing, adventure, or just want to keep up with the trip, the Captain does a Captain’s Log every night which goes live at 22:00 Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEST). Here’s the link: https://youngendeavour.gov.au/the-voyage/captains-log

I also thought you might appreciate this Youtube video where Lieutenant-Commander Andrew “Kenny” Callandar, Commanding Officer gives some wise tips on leadership skills. It starts out with “Don’t be someone you’re not”. Great advise for us all really. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQXkICIWtVQ&list=PLLPshwXEivQ2logIPpZ7dukcDpSvJuz9Y&index=1

By the way, for those of you who are new to the blog, I should explain that I’ve been writing this blog for ten years from when Mister was eight and Miss was six. I didn’t want to use their actual names, and these alternatives seemed to fit quite well back then. However, he recently turned 18, and he clearly needs an update. I’m working on it.

Lastly, if any of you have been on board the Young Endeavour and have any stories to share, I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

D- Devonport, Tasmania: Crossing Bass Strait…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to Day 4 of the Blogging A to Z April Challenge! Today, after visiting Australia’s capital Canberra yesterday, today we’re off to Devonport in Tasmania and you’re in for a treat. That’s because we’re travelling by boat on board the Spirit of Tasmania which runs between Melbourne and Devonport. I should point out that this is NOT a cruise ship and since we’re travelling in the virtual realm, you won’t catch the coronavirus. I promise!

DSC_3556

So, while it’s not a major city, you could say that Devonport is the Gateway to Tasmania when you’re traveling by boat.

DSC_3561

Family Photo taken in Devonport just before heading home on the boat.

It’s been three years since we last went down to Tassie. My husband, Geoff, was born and bred in Scottsdale in the North-East and families on both sides date back to early settlement. While most of his family were free settlers, the original Newton was a convict who was sent out Van Dieman’s Land via Nolfolk Island at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. He was caught red handed wearing the clothes he’d stolen.

Have you ever been on the Spirit of Tasmania? Here’s a link to our experience.

We hope that you and yours are keeping well and safe and pray for God’s protection and comfort at this time.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Irish Night…Celebrating a journey from Cork City to Sydney 1854- 2014

While St Patrick’s Day is usually the day when we celebrate all things Irish, we had a special Irish celebration of our own tonight. You see, we celebrated the 160th anniversary since our ancestor John Curtin arrived in Sydney onboard the Scotia on the 4th April, 1854. He was an Able Seaman and worked on board as part of the ship’s crew.

Not only did we celebrate his journey from Cork to Sydney, we also celebrated the end of a quest because it’s taken our family well over 30years to find the record of John Curtin’s arrival in Sydney. It’s been quite a frustrating business not just because we wanted to know more about how we arrived here but also because knowing when your ancestor came out to Australia is one of the very basics of family history research. If you want your research findings to have any kind of credibility at all, you need to know when you’re ancestor came out. That’s just basic, simple Simon stuff and we couldn’t find him. It was yet another gap and it certainly detracted from researching the Curtin family. I had other branches of the family history which were bursting with fruit. I didn’t need to waste my time with such a barren stump. I moved on yet there was always this nagging gap. How did John Curtin get to Australia?

Although we have quite an assortment of ancestors who have come from Ireland, Germany, Scotland, England, we haven’t celebrated any other arrival in quite this way, although we did take the kids down to Hahndorf in South Australia last year to see where my grandfather was from. He was a Haebich as in Haebich Cottage and his father, grandfather and great grandfather had all been blacksmiths in town. We have also taken the kids to London Bridge, near Queanbeyan to see where my great grandmother came from . You could say that I’m addicted to family history and I want to share this love with the kids and also give them a sense of who they are and our family’s heritage or story.

Anyway, we have been looking for John Curtin’s arrival since 1984 and I only found it two weeks ago. I’d really given up any hope of ever finding his arrival and we’d pretty much decided that he’d come out as crew and we were never going to be able to find him because the lists are all about passengers, especially assisted immigrants.

All good things come to she who waits. Well, actually they come to she who never gives up because I decided to have yet another look and fortunately some very nice people have been transcribing the shipping lists and low and behold they have actually added the crew! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! So when it came to actually finding John Curtin now, it only took seconds along with a few minutes for me to do the maths. Because there is such little detail about this John Curtin, we can’t be entirely sure that he’s ours but cross-references work out and it’s good enough.

Anyway, as I was doing my research, I realized that we were rapidly coming up to the 160th anniversary of his arrival and I wanted to do something special to celebrate. Ideally, I would have got my Dad’s family together. However, we didn’t have enough notice and now our family is fighting off a chest cold so we’re in no position to socialize. We’re actually wearing face masks round the house as a chest infection could really be bad news for my lungs and in general as my immunity has been repressed to contain my auto-immune disease.

So that’s a little bit of background to our Irish night.

I decided to have an Irish-Australian menu. So we had Irish Stew served with buttered Irish Soda Bread followed by Pavlova for dessert. I printed off the Irish Blessing and we said that together in lieu of grace. Of course, we needed a bit of Irish music so we put on Riverdance. I also put on a bit of a slide show of images of Cork City and Sydney dating from 1854.

I really recommend you do something similar to share your cultural heritage with your children. In the past, Australia has been a bit closed to cultural diversity and we needed to assimilate but now we can bring all our assorted ancestors out of the closet and celebrate who they were and indeed what is a part of ourselves…our very flesh and blood as well as our cultural heritage.

Here’s our menu from tonight:

 

Basic Pavlova

I have always understood that the pavlova, named after the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, was created by Australian chef Bert Sachse from the Esplanade Hotel in Perth and prepared for her while on tour.

However, like most great things which are considered uniquely and indisputably Australian, there’s often a foreign element. Hey, even Vegemite and the Australian Women’s Weekly are foreign owned. So it also appears that the Kiwis (AKA New Zealanders) are trying to take over our pav. Is nothing sacred?!! That said, a pav just isn’t a pav without kiwi fruit on top so I reluctantly got to give the kiwis a bit of credit.

This recipe comes from Margaret Fulton who, now aged in her 90s, has to be considered the Grandmother of Australian cooking. I grew up cooking from her cookbooks as a child and even though we have never met, she feels like some kind of surrogate cooking Supergran and I’m sure most Australian women would feel much the same. So much more than a name, she’s part of the family, albeit on the shelf.

This pavlova is my signature dish. It is relatively simple but I always receive gushing praise and have somehow become the “Pavlova Queen”.. With its crisp crunchy crust and soft marshmallow interior, it’s amazing and I find so many people truly love pavlova and nothing compares to the classic home made version. It almost makes everybody deliriously happy.

Ingredients:

6 egg whites at room temperature

Pinch of salt

2 cups caster sugar

1.5 teas vanilla

1.5 teas vinegar

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven. There is quite a difference in settings depending on whether you are baking the pavlova in a gas or electric oven. If you are using electric, pre=heat the oven to a slow 150° C (300°F). If you are using gas, preheat it to a very hot 230°C (450°F).
  2. Grease tray. I use a pizza tray covered in foil and spray it with canola.
  3. Separate egg whites into glasses and transfer each egg white to the main bowl in case a bit of yolk slips through the net. You don’t want to waste the lot!
  4. Beat egg whites at high speed until soft peaks form.
  5. Add sugar one tablespoon at a time beating well after each addition.
  6. Stop beating after all the sugar has been incorporated.
  7. Fold in vanilla and vinegar.
  8. Pile mixture onto the tray and swirl it around creating attractive curls.
  9. Cooking instructions vary depending on what type of oven you have. If using an electric oven, put the pavlova in and bake for 45 minutes and then turn the oven off and leave it in there for 1 hour. If using a gas oven, turn heat to the lowest temperature. Put the pavlova in and bake 1.5 hours or until crisp on top and a pale straw colour.
  10. When pavlova is cooked, remove from the oven and cool completely.
  11. Now you essentially drown the pavlova in cream. You can either buy the tubs of very thick cream which you can pour straight onto the pavlova or you can whip some cream up yourself. We always add a bit of icing sugar and vanilla to our whipped cream. Just to make the pavlova healthy, despite all that sugar and cream.
  12. Top the cream with fresh fruit which is typically slices of kiwi fruit , banana and strawberries along with some passion fruit. My sister-in-law used frozen raspberries, defrosted of course, and these went very well with it as well. She actually put the raspberries underneath the cream and that looked very good.

Pavlova is best made the day before and it’s not something you can easily squeeze into the oven in between cooking other things what with juggling oven temperatures and it needing a slow oven. I have been making this pavlova for many years and haven’t had a flop until recently and I think that’s from trying to cook it straight after having the oven hot for something else.

 

 

 

Irish Stew

Rowena Newton based on a recipe from taste.com.au

¼ Cup plain flour

1.25kg lamb chops, trim off fat.

¼ cup olive oil

1 brown onion finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

2 carrots, sliced

1 kg desiree potatoes, cut into 2 cm pieces

6 cups of beef stock

Thyme sprigs to serve

 

Directions

1)    Wash, peel and dice potatoes and wash and slice carrots and put aside.

2)    Finely cut onion.

3)    Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large heavy frying pan on medium heat and when bubbling add onion and thyme leaves. Cook stirring for 3 or 4 minutes or until tender and transfer to a bowl.

4)    Place flour and chops in a bag. Shake until chops are coated.

5)    Increase heat to high. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in pan. Add half the chops. Cook for two minutes on each side and transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining oil and chops.

6)    Leave half the chops on the bottom and cover with half the onion mix, half the potatoes and carrots and then cover with the remaining chops and cover these with the remaining onion mix, potatoes and carrots.

7)    Pour over stock.

8)    Bring to the boil, skimming off fat where necessary. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour 30 minutes.

9)    Remove lid and simmer until sauce has thickened to desired consistency. I ended up simmering it for at least an hour and the sauce became more of a gravy, which we preferred to a watery soup.

10)                       Serve with buttered slices of Irish soda bread straight from the oven.

 

Irish Soda Bread

This recipe comes from Katherine and I apologise for pilfering her recipe but I have translated it into Australian and will give her credit when I’ve found her site again.

I’ve never tried authentic Irish soda bread so I have no idea what it’s supposed to be like. Unfortunately when I made this for our special Irish celebration tonight, I was rushing to get the pavlova into the oven and as a result neither were cooked properly. When I sliced into the bread, it was still raw in the middle and because the pavlova was now cooking in a very slow oven, I had to use the microwave to finish the job off and nuked it for 5 minutes. No doubt, I would have been tried for murder in Ireland for committing such a crime but the bread seemed to recover and went well with our Irish stew. The family all enjoyed it whether it was authentic or not.

Although I haven’t tried the real thing, I did a Google search and found what looked like a fairly authentic recipe which had quite a preamble initiating the uninitiated into the fine art or is that complications of making the real deal. All these warnings and specifications did make me feel rather wary about taking on the great Irish Soda Bread challenge. There seemed to be so many things to go wrong and this dough really does seem very fussy and demanding compared to throwing everything into the breadmaker or simply buying a loaf of bread at the supermarket. But there’s nothing like making your own bread and wanting to have an authentic Irish night, I had to have a go.

There are a few things to watch out for:

1)      Irish flour is soft and low in gluten so the bread will have a different consistency when other flours are used.. If you can’t get Irish flour, use unbleached flour or Plain Flour. Do not use bread flour. It is very high in gluten and simply will not work in bread which do not use yeast.

2)      NO Kneading and only use a light touch to mix the dough ie use your fingers rather than your full hand to mix the dough.

3)      Work fast and get the dough into a hot oven the minute the dough is shaped. The reaction between the bi-carb and the buttermilk starts as soon as the two ingredients meet and you want that happening while the bread is cooking. Wait too long, and your bread won’t rise

 

Ingredients

4 cups Irish white flour or plain flour

½ teas Bicarb soda

½ teas Salt

2 cups unhomogenised Buttermilk

 

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 230 degrees C . Wait until oven is hot before you add the bread.
  2. Sift flour, bicarb soda and salt into a large bowl and mix.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in about 2/3 of the milk. Quickly and with a light touch bring the flour in from the sides and mix with the milk, until al the ingredients come together into a dough. Use your hands for this, never use a spoon or mixer.
  4. It is impossible to be exact about the amount of buttermilk needed, it will depend on the nature of the flour. The dough should not be sticky and should come together into one lump of of soft, slightly floppy dough.
  5. Once the dough had come together, do not knead it. Simply place it on a floured board and rub flour into your hands so they are perfectly dry and shape the dough into a flat round which is about 5 cm thick.
  6. Place on a baking tray. Dust the handle of a wooden spoon with flour and press into the dough to form a cross. This gives the bread its tradition cross-shape and also helps the bread to cook through more easily, although I have read that this is to let the fairies out. This process should only take 5 minutes and you need to get the bread in the oven immediately. Quick. On your marks. Get set! Go!
  7. Set timer for 5 minutes. Turn the oven down to 200 degrees C The initial high temperature ensures a good crust. Set timer for a further 20 minutes and take the bread out and knock on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s done. If not, pop it back in the oven for a further 5-10 minutes and check again.
  8. This bread should be eaten on the day that it’s made which shouldn’t be a problem. It also makes good toast.
  9. Cook your pavlova well before bake your bread. Pavlova might be a dessert but it needs an hour to rest in the oven after cooking for you do need to allow quite a bit of extra cooking time and the pavlova didn’t like me mucking around with the oven temperatures either. I am known for my pavlovas which have a deliciously crunchy crust with soft marshmallow inside. This pavlova decided to be fussy and it had no crunch at all and was pure marshmallow which still tasted great but it wasn’t the same.