Tag Archives: Tasmanian

Responding To Tasmania’s Jumping Castle Tragedy.

Many of you would have heard about the freakish, tragic accident in Devonport, Tasmania where so far six children died when a jumping castle was swept 10 metres into the air by a fierce, rogue gust of wind.

Map of Tasmania. Devonport is on the North Coast roughly in the middle.

Although we live on the Australian “mainland” (as Tasmanians call it), for us it’s still quite personal. My husband is Tasmanian, and in particular, from Northern Tasmania. While Geoff was born and raised in Scottsdale on the North-East, his dad came from Penguin which is just over 30 kilometres away from Devonport and Geoff has families spread right throughout these parts. Indeed, numerous branches of his family arrived in Tasmania in the 1830s, and let’s just say there was no TV back then. Many of his ancestors had massive familes, and there was one guy in particular who really clocked the numbers up. He had 24 kids with two wives. So, you can appreciate how his family tree has been very prolific and spread something like a weed. I stir him about being related to anyone with old time family ties in Northern Tasmania, and I’m yet to be proven wrong, although it’s only been a small sample size.

Our two rogue children on our son’s last day in Year 6. The photos went downhill from here.

So, like everyone else we were shocked and heartbroken by this freakish tragedy, but we had the added concern of whether we had family involved and it took awhile for them to release the names of the children. So, while we were one of the families pulling up at the school not knowing whether our child was affected or not, we were connected. Indeed, so many people are. Moreover, quite a number of my friends have kids making the transition from year 6 which is the end of our primary school system here, and into year 7 next year, which is the start of high school. So they’re really feeling it too.

At the end of their last day at school, the school children form a tunnel through the playground and the Year six’s run through, and I took this close-up of their hands.

For awhile there, we didn’t know the names of the children who had passed away. So, far they’re not familiar. However, but one grandfather looked familiar and would’ve fitted in well at Geoff’s sister’s place for Christmas. Moreover, there’s definitely a sense of Geoff and his family genetically belonging to this community. There’s a noticeable “look”. Being an island, Tassie is a close-knit community, but it’s also had its internal divides too. There’s traditionally been a very strong divide between North and South, and to a lesser extent the West Coast as well. Like most island communities, Tasmania is isolated and they refer to the refer of Australia as “the mainland”. One of Tasmania’s other claims to fame is that it often gets left off the map, although during covid having a moat was rather advantageous and I think some politician down there talked about having a moat and a drawbridge, and not being afraid to use it back in the early days of covid.

So, for this to happen in a place like Devonport, it’s monumental. With an estimated population of 25,747 in the 2020, it’s not a village. However, with a web of established families and networks, it’s a particularly close community – especially now.

Sharing a bit about Devonport with you isn’t going to help any of these families, but it helps me feel closer. It helps us feel closer to a community where we have indeterminate connections. A close friend of ours, who is married to Geoff’s best man, is a school counsellor at a nearby school, and was at Hillcrest School on Friday providing counselling for families and children – such a tough job but she’s put years into her training and really strives to develop strategies for connecting with children, and in particular children who are doing it tough for a whole swag of reasons. I’m not her mum, but I am proud of her and so grateful she was there. However, as we move into school holidays and Christmas, there needs to be a changing of the guard as school staff go on holidays. They will need support for the long haul.

This was awhile ago now, but it’s one of my favourite dance photos of her.

Meanwhile, tonight we did what we do at the close of every year. We went to my daughter’s end of year dance concert. With all the stunning and thought-provoking dancing, it always makes me reflective, and when I see the younger ones dance, I also remember our daughter’s progression through all the grades to where she is now about to embark into the senior teens. I wasn’t being morbid. I wasn’t teary or sad. However, it certainly hammered home what it would mean if it happened here, and a sense of what the families at Hillcrest School are going through, and the students. Six of their precious friends are gone and for some it’s going to be very lonely going back to school next year. You hope they were all someone’s bestie, and know there are now six huge, and very painful holes in the playground, as well as at home. Holes they will never be filled, but I pray there will be some kind of healing. That maybe being in this together, they can help each other muddle through, and as the Beatles said “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

They are in my prayers.

Rest in peace dear sweethearts,

Love,

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!

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

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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

Blown Away By Stanley…Tasmania Continued.

If you have ever dreamed of flying, then you’d better head off to the historic town of Stanley in North-West Tasmania. The winds were so strong, that they nearly lifted this mighty heavy hephalump right off the ground like a kite. So, we’re talking about seriously heavy winds and by the end of the day, I could have inflicted grievous bodily harm to get hold of a hair elastic to contain the wilderness on  top of my head. I’m not even going to try to describe what it was like trying to eat an ice cream with my hair whipping my face and going all over the ice cream. It was truly annoying…irritatingly annoying.It provides a different interpretation of having “lashings of ice cream”.

 

However, to be fair to Stanley, the weather was particularly bad that day. So, I wouldn’t necessarily say that Stanley is an exceptionally windy place, though I did spot this sticker…

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By the way, for those of you who are into maps and can actually read and follow them, here’s a map of Tasmania and you can spot Stanley on the North-West coast.

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Then, we headed into Stanley for lunch. I don’t know whether I’ve exactly pointed out how many times I’ve had fish & chips on this trip and how I’m keeping a bit of a log of their performance. So far, the fish & beer battered chips from Stanley are right up there with the best. They were exceptionally good and the fish melted in my mouth and the portions were also very generous.

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Normally, I love alfresco dining, but the wind was so bad that sitting outside became a test of endurance. The wind was bad. Have I mentioned that yet?

Stanley is built into the hillside of a volcanic plug known as: The Nut. This very striking geographical feature helps give Stanley its own character and really adds to its appeal…along with its gorgeously quaint, historic cottages.

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Geoff with “The Nut” in the background.

After lunch, we set off on foot to explore the town. That’s when we came across former Australian Prime Minister, Joe Lyons’ birthplace. The house has been turned into a museum and restored to its original condition with hand split timbers throughout the house etc.

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Our son making himself comfortable at the Prime Minister’s childhood residence.

While looking look through the museum, I was intrigued to find out that his grandmother was a Burke from Shanogolden, County Tipperary, Ireland. This is where Geoff’s Griffin family came from originally. A number of Griffins and Burkes married each other here so I’m curious to see if Geoff’s family has any connection with the former Prime Minister. It’s not something the family is aware of, but until proven otherwise, it’s still a possibility!

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The Stanley Hotel.

While we were in Stanley, we also wanted to check out the Stanley Hotel, which has a connection with Patrick Brehenny who married Ellen Griffin, Geoff’s grandmother’s aunt. It’s quite a building and of  interest quite aside from the family connection.

Personally, although our family connections to these old buildings go back a long way, they have meaning for me. While I’m walking around trying to put myself into their shoes, I get that sense of talking walls . I can almost hear their whispers and feel their pulse. I love doing this, even though it can get a bit eerie and even painful at times. Some of these people led such hard lives, and I do absorb some of their grief. After all, I’m not made of stone. Yet, at the same time, I try not to hold onto these feelings. It’s supposed to be a case of slipping into their skin, walking around looking, breathing, sensing and then stepping out again. I need to let them go.

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Speaking about letting it go, I’d better finish this off and get to bed. We’re off to Hobart’s famous Salamanka Markets in the morning.

xx Rowena

Desperately Seeking “Curley”…Our Tasmanian Cornish Pasty.

Pasty rolled out like a plate,
Piled with “turmut, tates and mate.”
Doubled up, and baked like fate,
That’s a “Cornish Pasty.”
(An old rhyme originating around Breage, Cornwell)

What with all the discussion on Masterchef about recreating your childhood memories on the plate, my thoughts crossed Bass Strait venturing into the Apple Isle where my husband grew up eating Cornish Pasties. Geoff used to buy Cornish Pasties at the school canteen where they were affectionately known as “Curlies”. He loves Cornish Pasties and as much as he loves the taste, they also evoke memories of lush green, rolling hills and being back home on the farm with Mum and Dad.

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Geoff’s Childhood Home.

 

Whenever we’ve gone back to Tasmania, we’ve had to stop off at Poole’s Milk bar in his home town of Scottsdale to buy Cornish Pasties, including a stash to take home. As much as we’ve tried to find a local equivalent, nothing has ever matched up. They weren’t “the same”.

Knowing how much Geoff loves Cornish Pasties, I thought I should try making them. Looking for inspiration,  I Googled Poole’s Milk Bar last night. It wasn’t good news. Unfortunately, it has closed down and the building is up for sale. So, it seems that the great, inimitable Curley has joined the ranks of the  Tasmanian Tiger in reported extinction. Perhaps, like reported sightings of the tiger, it’s still out there somewhere but it’s going to be hard to track down, particularly from “the mainland”.

This now leaves me trying to recreate what my husband knows as the Cornish Pasty without really knowing what it was like. Hedging my debts, I’ve opted to make the traditional Cornish Pasty. Scottsdale was a very traditional, country farming area settled in part by Cornish immigrants. Indeed, Geoff’s grandmother was descended from Francis French from Pelynt, Cornwall who arrived in Hobart Town  on the 23 August 1831.

Also, when we’re talking about my husband’s childhood, we’re winding back the clock 40 years and food was very different then.

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Geoff left with his BIG Brother.

So, after checking out a few recipes, I found a recipe put out by the Cornish Pasty Association, which you can check out here: Traditional Cornish Pasty Recipe

Trying to replicate a traditional recipe poses its own challenges.  While I’m creative and inventive, the skill here lies in replicating the original in the same way a concert pianist reproduces Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and doesn’t fuse it with chop sticks, their own composition or even Fur Elise. This means easing yourself inside Beethoven’s skin and reproducing his work with as much heart, empathy and sensitivity as you can muster. Otherwise, you can go write your own piece of music and call it what you like.It’s the same with the Cornish Pasty. You replicate the original in all its glory, or you call it something else.

However, replicating a traditional dish, is not without its challenges. Just like I can feel baffled by unknown “modern” or exotic ingredients, with the traditional Cornish Pasty, I am feeling equally bamboozled by the old. The pasty calls for dripping, which I haven’t seen since I was a kid. It also uses a Swede. I have used Swedes once before but they’re what I’d call “cow food” or at best “old school”, which I guess is part and parcel of recreating a traditional dish.

Making the pasty seems straight forward enough and the recipe comes with good, detailed instructions suited to the uninitiated or “virgin” Cornish Pasty maker. I appreciate this because too many recipes assume too much, preempting your inevitable “disaster”.

Yet, there’s one part that has me quietly shaking in my boots and that’s making the curly top.  Apparently, “a good hand crimp is usually a sign of a good handmade pasty.”

Note that it says “good hand crimp”, not slap-dash, sloppy or completely messed up. Knowing my luck, my “curley” will end up with straight hair looking in need of a perm!

However, what am I thinking expecting perfection on my first attempt? It takes practice to make perfect and indeed, it’s almost arrogant to think I could produce a professional quality Cornish Pasty on my first attempt… especially as a novice! I need to stop expecting too much of myself.

It’s okay to make mistakes and certainly not the end of the world.

Oh dear! While I’ve been writing about making my Cornish Pasties, time’s completely runaway from me. The pastry needs to rest for 3 hours and the pasties take around 50 minutes to cook and then dashing off for school pick-up before I can even think of getting started. . This means I need to run or these pasties will be a midnight snack and we’ll have no dinner.

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Heading out incognito to buy dripping, swedes and skirt steak.

This leaves me heading out to the shops looking for dripping, skirt steak and swedes. I might need to find myself a huge pair of sunglasses. After all, there’s retro and there’s retro… Soon, I’ll be wearing a scarf!

Have you even made Cornish Pasties or have any memories of them? Have you been to Cornwell and tried the real deal? I’d love to hear your tales.
xx Rowena
PS I’ll be back to report on the results.