At a recent family gathering where physical distancing was strictly enforced, my dear Uncle pointed out that in my blog post about the Victorian Fortifications at Middle Head, I had made a mistake!
I had incorrectly identified magpies as currawongs. This is a grave error and my family of amateur but deadly serious twitchers were somewhat disturbed by my rookie faux pas. There was a great deal of comment about my journalistic credentials and accusations of “fake news”.
I, therefore, apologise most humbly for my error and all future posts which include the identification of native Australian birds will be subject to strict quality checking by the newly established Family Ornithological Committee.
I’d like to thank my most esteemed Uncle for not calling me out publically and highlighting my error in the comments section.
These are magpies, not currawongs.
Check out the cheeky magpies at this site
Magpies have a lighter coloured beak and extensive white markings. There are significant regional differences between magpies. Juveniles are grey. They should also not be confused with pee-wees which are much smaller. Currawongs, on the other hand, have a black beak and only a small amount of white on their under-tail area. I don’t have a photo of a currawong or pee-wees to share.
Do you want to live your best life? What does that even mean? Have you ever felt that if you did everything you were supposed to do, to keep yourself fit and healthy, you would run out of time? Is it even possible to fit it all into a standard 24 hour day?
All those things like daily exercise, adequate sleep, cooking healthy food from scratch from the organic produce you bought plastic-free from the local farmers’ market, saving the planet by not wasting stuff, feeding your worm farm, and staying in contact with your friends and family!
All these potentially optional activities overlay the fact that many of us actually have to go out and earn a living for a significant portion of the day, as well as the time taken to commute.
For those of you with families and children, you have to add on yet another layer of complexity as you juggle the mental load of managing family life. Like shopping, washing, housework, organising kids and their activities etc etc. etc….
Is there a silver lining in the Global Pandemic?
No wonder so many people have found a silver lining in the “Great Global Quarantine of 2020”. The wide scale and permitted (nay encouraged and lawful) rolling back of activities and the fact that you have a very good excuse for not running around frantically, has given us that breathing space to see another way.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the change in the Corona Zeitgeist as people began to realise there was a quieter, slower (dare I say it more meaningful) life to be had.
But how can we maintain a slower pace of living in the long term? We do have to get back to work eventually. Soccer training, ballet lessons, and book club will be back on sooner than we want it to be. (By the time this is published, normal may well have returned!)
You need to plan for slow living if you want it! I don’t just mean planning your activities but sitting down and thinking about who you want to be in 20 years time.
Setting your lifestyle climate.
Perhaps we need to look more at our lifestyle-climate rather than always being focused on the current lifestyle-weather? Climate and weather are different ways of looking at our physical environment. One is long term, the other, short term. We are familiar with using these terms when we are talking about the temperature outside and whether it is raining or not.
For many of us, we have crammed so many things into our daily life we are experiencing shit-storms every day! The weather is crap! Just like the global climate change that is causing our planet to heat up, the expectations of modern life have caused our own lives to warm up to intolerable levels. We beat ourselves up by comparing ourselves to others.
The lockdown has shown us we can move to someplace with a better climate! Where things are not so busy. Where things are not so hectic, and where you don’t have to yell at your kids to get ready for piano lessons!
We let so much of our lives just happen without thinking about it. In general, we set short term goals, if any. We worry more about the weather, and less about the climate.
It’s time to balance our lifestyle-climate so we can manage the life-style weather. We need to map out what we expect and want from our lives more deliberately and only do those things that make the daily weather manageable.
Look at the big picture
I am advocating taking a bigger picture view of your life. To make a calculated plan. Not just go from day to day and pile stuff on. To accommodate the things you think are important and to not put too much pressure on yourself when you end up having pizza from the box in front of Netflix because you can’t be arsed cooking lentils again!
For instance, if you decide that exercise is an important part of your lifestyle-climate, look at it long term. Perhaps you don’t get a chance to exercise every day but if you look back over the year and see that you exercised more days then you didn’t, then that’s a win.
If you managed to cook healthy meals for 80% of the 365 days – that’s a win!
Avoided plastic and waste most days? That’s a win!
Kids involved in one activity? That’s a win!
Made a plan? That’s a big win!
Next week, I will share my lifestyle plan. You may be surprised to know, I do have one! (sic). I sometimes need reminding to stick to it!
Prelude: I don’t know about you, but I need a break from the Corona Virus! I contemplated writing a piece about it and maybe I will later, but for now, I thought I would share a bit of family history. It’s longer than my usual posts, but since some of you are in self-isolation, you’ve got more time!
My mum (Hi MUM!) has been working on the family tree for many years. My cousin, Jenny, is the resident genealogist in our family (Hi Jenny!!) and has put together lots of facts and dates etc. In 2017, I started working on a fictionalised version of one of my ancestors. I didn’t get far. It’s not finished, and one day I will get back to it.
The long-story-short is that my great-great-great(?) Aunty Eliza had a baby when she was very young, and the family passed it off as her mum’s. Sarah Anne was a business woman and had a thriving company in Sydney that made embroidered regalia for military uniforms.
Firstly, I include an email sent to my mum to get more information. It was written when I was in transit to Israel. It sets the scene and then follows “Chapter 1” of the story. It needs a lot of work and is definitely a draft. I hope it makes sense!
When I was sitting on the plane, I re-read the history you had written about Sarah Usher. I thought there were some good angles for a few stories there, but the one that stood out for me was William, Eliza’s illegitimate son born in 1874 and “adopted” by Sarah and Charles. Do we know any more about him? When did he die? Did he have any kids of his own? What happened to Eliza? Did she go on to have any more kids?
It’s a fascinating angle coming from it with 2017 eyes. I wonder if they just pretended it was Sarah’s baby or was Eliza acknowledged as the mother? From what you wrote it would appear not. You’d think people would work it out. Frank was born in the same year…did they try and pass them off as twins?? Wow! I wonder where you would find out this stuff from. Sarah also had her last baby at 45! Old even by today’s standards but I guess in the absence of contraceptives, not unusual.
I wonder what sort of relationship William and Eliza had? I wonder if Wilhelm (who presumably skulked back to Germany) knew him. I wonder if he had other children? Children that perhaps could fight William in WW1. Do they not know who impregnated Eliza or did they just try and cover it up. Was Wilhelm a sexual predator or was Eliza a saucy young minx?
In the absence of facts, I am just going to make up a story! BUT I would like it to be “based on a true story” story. Any extra info you have would be greatly appreciated!
I wrote this on the plane and sent it once I arrived in Israel. Feeling creative at 11000 metres over the Himalayas!
Chapter 1: Eliza’s Baby
On 1874, two babies appeared in the Hund* household. Only one of them was welcome. At forty-five, Sarah Anne Hund (née Usher) gave birth to what would be her last child – Frank. Her oldest daughter, Eliza gave birth to a bastard called William. An illegitimate child. An embarrassment. A poorly kept secret. William Hund became his grandmother’s son.
This is William’s story.
By the time Eliza was 16, she knew she was clever. Not just clever-for-a-girl but clever. She helped her mum in the regalia workshop, ordering notions and materials. Organised and meticulous, great lists of mental arithmetic didn’t phase her. Writing work orders for the seamstresses was a doddle. It wasn’t hard. It was, in fact, boring.
So boring, she longed for some excitement. Of course, as things turn out even back in the 1870s, a girl looking for excitement doesn’t usually have to go too far to find it.
In the summer of 1873, when Uncle Wilhelm came to visit, things perked up for Eliza. Wilhelm, her father’s youngest brother, was handsome and dashing, his clipped German-tainted English so refined and intoxicating to a clever young woman looking for more out of life.
It turns out she was not as clever as she thought because by April she had missed two of her monthlies and she was pregnant. Marrying her Uncle was not really an option. By May, her mum asked her directly. In the days of washing out menstrual rags, there was no hiding anything in a household as crowded as the Hund’s on Cleveland Street.
Wilhelm was sent home. Eliza was banished to an old friend of Sarah’s in Braidwood for her confinement. VOILA, in December 1874, Sarah magically had another baby. A delayed twin to her own Frank. Of course, no-one was fooled. All the family and neighbours knew who the baby really belonged to, but officially it was Sarah and Charles’ baby. Baby number 13.
William should have been the lucky first child, but he ended up at 13th. His mother’s search for adventure had led him up the garden path.
Frank and William grew up as brothers. The tension between their sister and their mum did not go unnoticed. The fiery glances, the cold shoulders, the unsaid words kept everyone on edge.
William was clever too, although most of the time he stood in Frank’s shadow. Frank was always first. First to get the best bit of the lamb leg. First to get the juiciest part of the pineapple. Frank never realised, but William always noticed.
Frank was Mama’s favourite. William didn’t know why or what he had done, but as the years progressed, he learned to live with it.
Frank and William grew up. They married. They lived their lives as best they could. And in 1907 their whole world turned upside down.
Frank was appointed as executor to Sarah’s will. As they were going through all the papers, things started to get a bit complicated. Frank found his birth certificate.
Mother: Sarah Anne Hund
Father: Charles Friedrich Hund
Other children: There were his brothers and sisters, all listed but not William.
And then he found William’s certificate. He had to look at it twice.
Mother: Elizabeth Hund.
Other Children: None
At thirty-three, William discovered Frank was not his brother but his Uncle. His sister was his mother and his mother, his grandmother. His world fell apart.
In my mind, the story will end up with William fighting his German half brothers in World War 1. There will be tension between William and Frank. Not sure what else will happen… yet….
* My mother’s maiden name has had a few iterations. Originally it was spelt HUND, then Hundt. Then it was changed (unofficially) to HUNT by some of the family to make it more respectably British. Then sometime after WW2 it was changed back to Hundt.
This is my father, Bob, with his Dad, Vernon. My dad died too young, at 51 in 1988. He had Type 1 diabetes, a dicky heart and didn’t look after himself so well, as blokes of this vintage were want to do.
I pride myself in only posting photos I have taken myself, but sometimes you have to bend the rules. I have no idea who snapped it, although on reflection it was probably Uncle Rudolph who owned the grapevines. It has always been one of my favourites in the family album. Shot sometime around 1960 in Griffith, NSW. The original print is about 2 x 3 inches.
I don’t remember what I was dreaming about, but I was in one of those stages of sleep where my mind was buzzing, and even though I was sure I was awake, in reality, I was still unconscious. One of my dream-characters reminded me that this month marked the 10th anniversary of me leaving the marital home. Me walking out and into my own little bedsit, so we could “have some space to think things through”.
I took an independent step. I was proactive.
Another dream-character piped up with the idea that it must be getting close to 10 years since I raised my voice in anger. Ten years since I have screamed with murderous rage and ill intent… At anyone.
I am not saying I haven’t been angry or upset since that time – of course, I have, but since then I have never been in a frame of mind that was so filled with venom and hate.
So much has happened in those ten years. So many good things! I still lament the 10 years I wasted before that, in trying to stitch together something that was shredded and beyond repair. Why did we do that to ourselves? It’s not only me who wasted time. It wasn’t just me who lost good years in the technical “prime” of our lives.
That is all inconsequential now. Now is what counts, and where my head is NOW. If you have been reading this blog, you will know I have been rejoicing in the discovery of a new found creativity that has been hidden below the surface. It took a while for it to bubble to the top and make its way through the cracks, but it’s here – NOW.
I am happier although I am still restless. Something else is out there waiting to be discovered. And before all my friends get excited, it’s not another partner!
One thing I have learned is that I don’t need to be in a partnership. I have good friends, a loving family and an intentionally busy life filled with interesting pursuits and being coupled won’t add to this. Not NOW.
If you are in a broken relationship, it probably won’t get better. Leave! Don’t stay for the children’s sake. The kids will do better in a settled home. They don’t need to feel or hear the hate that seethes out of your skin. If there is violence, they don’t need that either.
Don’t waste 10 years. Don’t waste five!
Take the plunge.
It might be cold when you first get in, but you’ll warm up!
I don’t miss much about my marriage, but the one thing I really do miss is singing! My ex was a musician. He played guitar and drums. While never achieving any fame and spending way more than he ever earned, it was a very satisfying hobby for him and by default, for me as well. Sitting around the kitchen or on the lounge after work and on weekends he would play his Maton acoustic and sing. Most times I would join in with him. I am no virtuoso, but I could hold a tune and used to really enjoy these times.
I guess if we were singing, we weren’t fighting!
The repertoire was fairly broad but consisted of mostly “middle of the road” rock and folk music. There was plenty of Paul Kelly, Cold Chisel, Dire Straits as well as Bob Dylan (which incidentally I didn’t join in on).
I especially enjoyed the family singalongs with his brothers and sisters. These were always happy nights that went into the wee hours.
Since I have been on my own, my opportunity to sing ad hoc has completely vanished, and now when I try and sing along in the car or in my kitchen, my voice is weak and becomes hoarse very quickly. I begin to splutter and cough. I guess it’s like anything, it takes practise and training. My “singing” muscles are no longer in good condition. Sadly, I can’t remember the last time I actually sang with other people!
The Royal Easter Show is THE biggest event in Australia. Held at Sydney Olympic Stadium over 12 days and with an average of over 850,000 tickets sold, it hums with activity. The show is run by the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW, and the first show was held in 1823. The RAS’ charter is to support the farmers by acting as
“… a not-for-profit organisation, …committed to supporting agricultural development and rural communities in Australia by generating revenue through its businesses which is ploughed back into agriculture.”
Over the years it has changed and, of course, become more commercial. Show bags used to be called sample bags and were free. These days you have to pay a pretty penny for a bag full of plastic junk.
Despite this, the essence has remained the same. “The Royal” is the culmination of local and district agricultural shows which happen at various times throughout the year in country towns around NSW (and Australia). Farmers bring their best chickens, pigs and cattle to show, while others cook and vie for the title of best fruit cake. Old crafts such as knitting, crochet and leather carving are appreciated and kept alive by healthy competition.
In the various arena and pavillions, we city folk can watch tent pegging, show jumping, rodeo, dog and cat shows, and feel connected to those who provide our food.
In sideshow alley kids of all ages can ride on the giant Ferris wheel, the giant slide and the other noisy rides that throw them in the air in an eruption of squeals and shrieks.
I’m not sure how often I have been to the Show, perhaps 10? I remember going with my mum on Good Fridays because it meant the crowd would be smaller as people observed that public holiday more piously 50 years ago. In those days, it was held at the Showgrounds in Moore Park, and we needed to catch two trains and a bus to get there.
I’ve been to the show three times in the last 6 years. It’s an excellent place for a photo safari and while I don’t look at everything I stick to the less commerical areas but make sure I check out the chickens!
The collages below show some of my shots from this year.
Junior Judges being judged judging sheep….
A little of sideshow alley
Tomorrow (23/4/19) is the last day for the 2019 show. It’s Children’s Day and there are special offers. If you are visiting Sydney in 2020, I’d recommend you add it to the calendar of events. The glorious autumn weather and the feel good vibe, are bound to impress.
Back in the dark ages, in the dim, distant past when I was married, my husband bought me a very luxurious black leather briefcase to celebrate my birthday the year I got a big promotion.
Thirty years later I still have that briefcase and while I no longer carry it around with my sales catalogues and business cards, it does hold some very special papers.
These days I call it Pandora’s Box. It’s filled with old journals and copies of letters and emails between my ex and I when we were going through the meaty part of the break up. All the gnashing and wailing. All the justifications and arguments. All the pitiful pleading.
Declarations of love on Sunday where superseded by obscenities by Wednesday. I have trawled through it a few times with different effects on my psyche. In the Wine and Wedges days, (circa 2012) when things were fresh and we were still in each others lives, I would dissolve into a heap of misery and have yet another glass of wine! I would look for clues as to when and where I could have ‘fixed things”. In more recent times, I have vowed to create a big bonfire on the beach and dance around the burning ashes with glee.
Recently, I went through the stack of double sided sheets again. I started to put them back into chronological order to make better sense of them, thinking to myself there must be some blog-able gold in here somewhere! I could write a very murky expose about the demise of a relationship over a long period of time with all the indelicacies that would conjure up. But no, I am not that type. This post is about as tacky as I am prepared to get.
I was pleased I could read all the wretchedness and despair with a dispassionate eye. I came away feeling vaguely amused and not at all sad. I did however tsk-tsk at the time it took us to take the final plunge. The time we both wasted trying to patch the hull of our Titanic. But still we came out the other side and I for one am stronger.
Much of the writing is over the top emotional dribble. Streaming consciousness on overload! But some is gold. Of course, most is contextual and obviously a reply to now forgotten conversations. The papers cover the time from November 2006 – late 2008. At that time, I was in the middle of completing a Masters degree and I must say my vocabulary was much wider than it is now. I seem to have gotten less eloquent!
Now, when I talk about my divorce and my ex, I report that it was a relatively amicable separation and that we can still talk to each other in a civil tone. Reading back over this huge body of work, reminds me that it was really a death by a thousand cuts but some of those were bloody big gashes.
I am not going to spill the proverbial beans. I am not going to write that tell-all expose, but here are a few of my favourite lines, some of the passages that amused me. They are all from my words not his.
...I had other things in my head but they are like shadows now and I keep losing them…
…as I read back over this, it is only part of what I wanted to say and I feel like I can never explain. It’s all the chicken and the egg story. I am not sure where the seed came from but our life has been covered in lantana. We are still underneath it somewhere but now it’s too late to clear it away. I stand here knocking on the door of your heart with the weed killer! …[oh dear!]
…I can not explain… once you get caught in the turning lane you just end up going with the flow….
Ten reasons why I like you…
…. 10. You like watching the same daggy TV shows, you don’t like John Howard, you have a compatible outlook on world politics, religion, the relative merits of free range chickens and social justice. [chickens were a theme even back then!]
Maybe one day I will get around to that bonfire. But for now I think I‘ll keep Pandora’s Box with it’s oversized memories to remind me of a once passionate time of my life. One that I don’t want to relive, but a time that changed the course of my life irrevocably.
You never know, when I am ninety I might just write that steamy expose!
I spend $AUD18 a week buying Lotto, Powerball and lottery tickets. Every week, when I go to the newsagent to check my tickets, I have that little knot of hope sitting in my belly. Maybe this time?
The $18 per week is the sum total of my gambling vice. I figure I can afford it and it’s a bit of fun so I don’t feel too guilty. I can justify it easily. I take a packed lunch to work every day. I don’t buy coffee every day. If I did, that would be $19 per week for the coffee alone! See! The lottery tickets are a bargain!
I have, of course, spent more than I have won. My daughter tells me I buy lottery tickets because of my working class background. Apparently, rich people don’t buy lottery tickets. They gamble in more respectable ways like the stock market or horse racing.
I don’t want to win a lot. $3 or 4 million would be plenty! I certainly don’t want to win one of those super Powerball prizes of $30 million or more! Of course, if I did, I wouldn’t be handing it back, but I don’t need it.
I don’t want to live an extravagant life. You know from my previous blog posts that I try not to be a thoughtless consumer. I just want to be able to quit the day job so I can write, travel and take photos!
I don’t want a buy a mansion with a pool or a pool room for that matter. I don’t want a Maserati. I don’t want to fly first class. (Hang on a minute, maybe that’s one thing I do want!)
I want to win just enough to pay off my current mortgage, buy a small investment property that I could rent out as a source of reliable income and then have enough spending money leftover for a relatively comfortable and creative life. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
Let’s see: with the mortgage out of the way and keeping my living standard at its current level; with a life expectancy of 30 more years, allowing for two overseas trips per year, a new car in 10 years, and a bit of a contingency fund for new appliances and furniture when the current ones wear out or break – how much do I need? A few calculations later and not allowing for inflation or interest earned, I figure I need $2.8 million. Therefore, $3-4 million is an appropriate goal.
I just need to win!
Don’t worry, IF I did win the big one, I have it all worked out. I will buy a number of properties that I would rent to lower income families for a very moderate rate. These people would be strugglers. The people Australians call “Battlers”. Honest, hardworking folk who are being left behind in this current housing market. There would be a catch to their lower rent, however. They would need to agree to volunteer for a community organisation for a negotiated number of hours per week. The time would be dependent on their other responsibilities but they would need to have a regular commitment to being a volunteer. They would do good. They would feel good. I would feel good! I would need to hire some people to make this happen because I would be too busy writing, travelling and taking photos!