It’s funny how your memory gets sparked and where that memory will take you. Down rabbits holes of forgotten actions, people and secrets.
When I saw words Ob-la-Di-Ob-la-Da tattooed on the arm of a colleague, it made me fly back to 1969 when I was in Year 3, eight years old, blond and tiny. It took me back to the time when eighty students crowded around a TV borrowed from the local department store to watch the moon landing. It took me back to playing elastics and jacks. To skipping ropes and sour milk.
Those particular words from that jaunty little Beatles tune brought back a mix of fun, embarrassment and guilt
The Fun Bit.
My class was preparing to sing Ob-la-Di-Ob-la-Da for the weekly assembly. This was a BIG deal! We had been rehearsing with our hip and gorgeous teacher Mr Chinner for weeks and weeks. Our class, 3A, were doing a new song! A chart-topper! Not a choir of screeching descant recorders, but a grooooovy Beatles hit! It was a top-secret mission. We were not allowed to tell anyone! We were asked to bring a towel to wear around our shoulders like a Mexican poncho.
The Embarrassing bit.
Because I was small, I was scheduled to be in the front row. Because we were sworn to secrecy, I didn’t tell my mum why we needed the towel. Thinking it was for art clean-ups, and without a better explanation from me, she gave me a faded tatter of a towel. When Groovy Mr Chinner saw my faded rag, I got relegated to the back row. I couldn’t see over the tops of the bigger kids. My bubble was well and truly burst. I felt humiliated by my family’s lack of bright Mexican-like towels.
The Guilty Bit
In the same class, but in a different episode, I am simultaneously ashamed and amused to confess that I committed a fraudulent act. Our class had been chosen to go on an excursion to the Herald’s newspaper printing factory. Only 25 could go although our class had 43 students. In the spirit of fairness, Mr Chinner decided to pull the names out of a hat. As the names were called out, the lucky ones were clapping their little hands with glee. In the middle of all the excitement, the end of the day bell rang and the draw was not completed. It was declared that it would continue the next school day – Monday. I was heartbroken that my name had not yet been called out and even back then I realised the odds were not looking good.
When we returned after the weekend, Mr Chinner admitted he had forgotten to write down the names of the children who had been pulled out and no longer had the strips of paper. He asked us to raise our hands if we had been selected.
A few classmates put their hands up confidently. As I looked around at the remaining faces of my peers and saw them faltering. They either couldn’t remember or they didn’t seem too fussed about whether they went or not. I took my chance, I shot my hand in the air. Mr Chinner wrote my name on the list.
For the next few days, I expected to be challenged. For someone to remember that my name had never been called out and that I was a fraud, that I had lied. No one did. I went on the excursion and had a fabulous time. This is only the second time I have revealed this story! The first time was to the tattoo owner! (Sorry mum another thing you didn’t know!)
I guess Mr Chinner could still be out there. I have never forgotten him. He was young in 1969. Perhaps he’s out there, somewhere between 80-100 years old, thinking about his time as a teacher. I know he won’t remember me. There are too many children that pass through a teacher’s life. Even so, Mr Chinner, I apologize for my deceit.
As I look back on him and the lessons he taught us, I realize I don’t remember the specifics of one single scrap of the maths or spelling or grammar he may have taught us.
As I am typing this, I can smell the faint aroma of dusty leather wafting from the photo album lying on the desk next to my keyboard. The photo album, a “Souvenir of Lord Howe Island,” has been hand-bound with a hand-carved, hand-stitched leather cover. The grey pages are covered with small black and white photographs, postcards, brochures, and travel tickets stuck in with sticky tape. The aging tape has dried up, and the photos fall out easily. The inscriptions below each photo tell a story of a one week stay in 1954 at Somerset, a guest house on the island.
It tells the story of my grandparents’ 25th Wedding Anniversary. My grandfather, Colin Hundt, made the album. He would have sat in the shed at the back of his house in Connells Point and laboured over it carefully and with pride. My grandma, Alice, would have popped in now and then to check on and praise his progress and remind him the cup of tea was getting cold. They would have laughed together at the dad jokes that are peppered throughout the pages and the particularly droll one written directly onto a waxed-paper air sickness bag.
Judging by the stains left by the sticky tape, there is an item missing from the front page. I guess it was a title of some sort, it’s lost now. I found the album in my mother’s things as I helped her unpack after a recent move. It spoke to me with vivid memories and love. My grandma and papa beam out from the pages with a sparkle of mischievousness. They look happy and relaxed.
Memorabilia: dross or future history?
The album is at least 64 years old. I wonder if the declutterers and minimalists would deem it useless and suggest it be thrown into landfill? After all, it serves no purpose. It takes up space. It’s only sentimental. According to Josh and Ryan (The Minimalists), I should scan it and throw the physical item away.
The modern-day minimalists have got things wrong. Well, not everything, perhaps, but when it comes to sentimental items, I think they do. I am glad this album has been kept safe all this time because it does spark joy. (TING)
I have written before about my concerns for the lack of meaningful artifacts that will be available for future historians. We have plenty of digital artifacts but with the rise of a throw-away culture, minimalism, the strive to be decluttered, and lack of physical artifacts, what will be left if the electricity goes out?
I don’t propose that we keep every bus ticket (not that you get a paper ticket anymore!), but I think there is a case for making and preserving physical items that can give our descendants a glimpse of who we were and what life was like beyond Facebook and Instagram.
It would seem that Grandma and Papa enjoyed Lord Howe Island so much they intended to go back. I emailed a scanned copy of this letter to the current owners of Somerset. Alan and his daughter Cheryl, sold Somerset 13 years ago. Alan died soon after. The property is still in the hands of family members (Gai), and you can still stay there.
Alan sounds like a fun sort of fellow!
These days, their listed attractions extend beyond the availability of hot water and tiled toilets!
I arrived safe and sound in London after an uneventful flight. The best sort of flight really! Plane rides should NOT be interesting. They should be boring, dull and safe!
My next step was to get from Heathrow to Euston Station to catch the Caledonian Sleeper to Glasgow. This was accomplished by taking the Heathrow Express to Paddington (£25) You can buy the ticket at the information kiosk near the entrance to the train station. The return ticket is cheaper than two one-ways but it needs to be used within a 30 day period. From Paddington, I took the Hammersmith-City line to Euston Square and walked the 500m above ground to Euston London. I was worried I was cutting things fine only having 4.5 hours to get from Heathrow to Euston but in the end I made it within 2 hours of landing and sat around waiting. Incidentally, you don’t need to buy a ticket for the subway – you can use any bank card that has a chip as your ticket – just remember to tap on and off.
The overnight train journey was a good way to travel, although I did not get much sleep as the train was noisier than anticipated. They give you earplugs but I didn’t find them till the morning since I put my bag on top of the little amenity pack. I had a couple of glasses of wine in the dining car and chatted with two older ladies going to the Isle of Aran and some younger men who were doing the West Highland Trail – a 95 mile walk.
It was then an easy walk from Glasgow Central to the AirBnB in York Street. I’ve added the link ( https://abnb.me/S2ovefVHEX ) to the property here. Rona was a wonderful host and the room very comfortable. It was very well appointed, in a great location and Rona was very helpful and friendly.
I spent two days in Glasgow using the Hop on Hop Off sightseeing bus. I made a point of getting around to as many of murals that make up the Mural Trail as I could but time beat me.
These photos and videos show some of my adventures
Glasgow is a splendid city. If you are into Victorian architecture its is certainly the place for you! The people were friendly and there was certainly enough to do for 3 – 4 days. The museums and galleries run by the council are all free so don’t be shy about visiting. I didn’t get to them all in the time I had missing out on the Riverside Museum among many others.
I have now picked up a rental car and the road trip begins!
(Sorry for the long list of photos. Posting on the mobile version gives you very few options.)
The world is sad today. Sad for the burning of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Such a travesty. I am not a religious person, so I am not sad for the “church” itself, but for the rich history, it holds.
I am sad for the loss of workmanship which is unlikely to ever be replicated.
I am sad for the destruction of the vast historical treasures held in the halls and vaults.
Sad for the loss of beauty and sad for the people of France for their loss of an important cultural archive.
When you think of France, the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame are the first things that jump into your mind.
I visited Notre Dame in 2011 before I labelled myself a photographer. I wish I had done a better job back then capturing its beauty and majesty.
Farewell, beautiful lady. Will you rise like a phoenix? Will Paris rebuild you? Will those thousands and thousands of pieces of leadlight be carefully reconstructed into the glorious rosettes?
I hope so.
My thoughts are with you Paris.
(From more recent news reports it looks like the Cathedral has not been completely destroyed, but much of the structure is damaged.)
It’s July, in Hell Creek, Montana. The daytime temperature hovers around 45ºC (113ºF). Your lips crack, and the water you guzzle seems to evaporate before you get a chance to swallow it.
The barren landscape is speckled with low buttes, rounded striated mounds that rise abruptly from the otherwise flat landscape. Tufts of serrated grass struggle to grow in the grey popcorn-like clay that breaks easily under the pick.
Weather-beaten bone fragments are abundant under your feet and ignored by the experts. The real treasure is still underground. The dark brown, almost purple bones that have been encased for millions of years are not hard to find. Isolated fragments of skeletons are common. It’s the whole skeleton, intact and in one place – now that’s the mother lode.
To find these, the researchers concentrate on landforms they call washes. The remnants of watercourses; these are places where bones congregate in a tangle to form bone beds. Here the dead beasts became stuck and then covered in mud and silt in a Triassic flood. They have lain here undisturbed, the bones becoming fossilised as the living tissue is replaced by minerals. Hard and locked in time.
taking a rest
Fifteen long hours of bright sunshine makes sleep a problem. The extended twilight, a photographer’s delight. The six hours of darkness that finally comes is not enough to recover from the day’s hard labour, yet you press on. The heavy pick is replaced by a small hand pick and then a soft brush and dental pick. Your tiny little pick hits something that “tinks” when the metal hits it. You’ve found it! You’ve found the rib of a triceratops. More digging, slowly, slowly with painstaking tedium you brush away more dirt. Wait! Stop! Is that the vertebrae? YES! The joy punctures the eerie mood. You are the only human who has ever seen this bone.
The feeling of time stretched out behind you becomes unnerving. What catastrophic event lead to these massive creatures being nothing but a pile of bones? Will it happen again?
Dinosaur dig vacations
A dinosaur dig is not your typical vacation destination. It’s not glamorous. You actually have to do some digging! It’s hot and dusty. Most “holiday” digs are part of research programs, and you become the cheap labour and pay for the privilege. My dig was with a group called Paleoworld Research Foundation who operated during the summers from a ranch about 50 km out of the town of Jordan. The two women (Hannah and Jess) who ran the operation where both Masters students who were collecting specimens for their studies. We slept in an old caravan and ate simple meals with the family who owned the ranch.
Robyn and Judy – Montana
cold beer greasy food
female bird side on
Bird on post 2
I travelled to America with Bec, a friend I had met at a Science Teachers’ workshop a few years before. Our trip was 100% science-based. After the dig, we drove down through the Yellowstone National Park (geology) and onto the Grand Canyon (more geology) and Los Vegas. From Los Vegas, we flew to Alabama to join an Educators’ Space Camp at the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center. (Maths and physics!) (Ok…. so Los Vegas wasn’t very scientific!)
Paleoworld Research Foundation are no longer operating. Some internet research shows that Judy Lervick, the ranch owner, sadly died in July 2017. There are other groups who offer a similar experience, although I cannot in any way vouch for them.
The idea for this post came from two separate encounters with my daughter. Firstly, when we were watching a YouTube clip about the launch of Apollo 11 and the subsequent moon landing. I was recounting my memories from this day and how exciting it was. I told her how my school had to borrow TV’s from a local department store while other classes walked to neighbouring houses to watch this momentous event.
The second conversation arose when I offered her a spare ironing board I happened to have in my garage.
She laughed “Ain’t nobody got time for ironing” she quipped.
It made me think how things have changed in my own lifetime. Changes to how we live our daily lives are not as dramatic as a moon landing but have made a big difference. Here is a list of ten things I remember from childhood that don’t happen anymore.
The milk man: Many boys had their first part-time job jumping off the back of a milk truck to deliver milk to each house. If your family was well off, you could get exotic things like yogurt delivered too. The milk would come early in the morning and was left at the front gate. (For the most part gates have disappeared too). The cream floated on top in a luscious layer that the magpies enjoyed if you weren’t quick enough. Bread came later in the day. Unsliced white loaves wrapped in plain translucent paper. No plastic, no bread ties. At Easter you could pre-order hot cross buns for Good Friday. (Only Good Friday not from two weeks after Christmas) These days you can get all your groceries delivered by the big chains but their are no longer “milk men”.
Coppers, mangles and twin tub washing machines. Our laundry was outside in a separate building to our house. It had a bare concrete floor and the weatherboards were not lined on the inside, so it was freezing in winter and hot in summer. It was, however, pure luxury compared to the across-the-road neighbours, the Marshes, who didn’t even have a concrete floor – just swept dirt. We even had electricity! There was a single tub washing machine with a mangle. The mangle being two rollers that squeezed water out of the clothes. I can still hear my mum cursing when the clothes got stuck in the mangle and her warnings to keep our fingers out of the way. In the corner, there was a gas fired copper. The copper – literally a copper tub, was heated with a gas ring. You’d fill it with water and boil your clothes, especially whites. Later, we had a twin tub where the small washing tub was side by side with a separate spin dryer.
from the internet
Sawdust on the butcher’s shop floor. That smell still reminds me of fresh meat.
Fashion for little girls
the pleated kilt-like skirts with a plain white bodice top worn with hand knitted twin sets.
wearing an extra pair of knickers over the top of your tights to hold them up
elastic garters to hold up your socks.
The hair bobbles that whacked you in the head if mum slipped while trying to put them in
Having your hair cut short and washed with kerosene when you got nits. (Not me thankfully but a friend if mine!)
Making bread crumbs and minced meat with the old hand cranked mincer
Making cordial from flavoured syrup and sugar on Saturdays.
Hearing (and smelling) mum scrape the toast in the morning because it would always burn as well as the sound of the toaster doors being opened with a squeal,
Having to turn over a record after 25 minutes and then walk carefully on the wooden floors when it was playing.
Drinking soured milk in 1/3 pint bottles at school after it had sat in the sun for a couple of hours.
I could easily write another ten. One that pops into mind straight away is taking undeveloped film to the chemist and waiting two weeks to get back 24 pictures of nothing but blur!
I obviously don’t have photos of these things although the images of the beaters is mine. The washing machines are from the Net. I still have a beater like the one in the photos and actually prefer to use it to an electric mixer. It’s quicker!
How have the little things in your life changed since childhood? Add a comment below.
 The fact that yogurt was considered exotic is also an interesting sign of days gone by.