Ob-la-Di-Ob-la-Da: bringing up memories

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.

roby n on a scooter
Scans of a scanned 35mm slide – terrible quality – but heh! It’s a pump-up scooter!!

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.

robyn on water
Again a scanned scan – from around 1969

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.

But I do remember the moon landing.

I do remember his laugh.

And I remember being a faded Mexican con man.

A Souvenir of Lord Howe Island

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.

Lord How Island 1954

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.

an old air sick bag
Were these useful on the flight home. Oh, Lord How!

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.

a page from a photo ablbum with two photos of my grnadparents
The facebook of the 1950s

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.

Lord How Island 1954-5

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)

Lord How Island 1954-4

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.

Somerset letter
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!

 

See my previous posts about this same topic.

On the Konmari Bandwagon

Digital Ephemera and the Cloud Keepers

Feeling Sentimental

Consuming Interest.

 

Photo of the Week 32

Photo of the Week Challenge

Happy Fathers’ Day

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.

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Two years old!

Happy second birthday, Old Chook Enterprises!

My blog is two years old today! Well, not ‘today’ today because I wrote this in May and the second birthday happens in July but I’m publishing it on the second anniversary of my first post! Now that’s not confusing, is it?

I am celebrating because unless something tragic has happened in the last few days, I have posted consistently every week for two years. Sometimes more than one post a week but at least every week!  I am proud of myself for doing that.

In the time leading up to this post, I will have been chronicling my trip around Scotland. This particular piece I wrote in the comfort of my home on May 16th, 2019. A little “here’s one I prepared earlier” post.

I still have a way to go till I hit my goal of 1000 followers, but my “followship” (is that a word?) has been steadily increasing. Sadly extrapolating from my current growth rate, it will be about 2027 before I hit that mark. I need some exponential growth!

My most viewed post to date is No day shall erase you from the memory of time which was featured by WordPress as an Editors’ Pick. This post looked back at my visit to the 9/11 Memorial in New York and still gets a few views every week.

A few of my own favourite posts are

RAOK – (Random Acts of Kindness) about a magical few minutes on a train when everyone was kind to each other.

Pandora’s Box about the briefcase full of letters between my ex and I.

It’s not been hard work but sometimes a bit stressful when I have has no posts up my sleeve, and it’s Thursday night. Every photo and video has been my own (unless I say otherwise and it’s only a few). I have not reblogged anyone else’s work. Not once. Not ever.

My original goal for starting the blog was to find a place for a side hustle in writing and creativity. That hasn’t panned out yet. It still costs me more to run than I have made. My obvious talents (sic) are still underappreciated.

But nonetheless, I’ll keep going. I still enjoy writing. My friends IRL seem to enjoy my candid posts. This Old Chook still feels like she has things to say.


When I get home from Scotland, I will be updating my theme to give my blog a fresh new look. I hope you’ll stick around!

This reel is me over the last 10 years.

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Divorce – Ten years on.

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.

P1780657

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.

Leave!

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!

 

Sing out loud!

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!

 

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High School Teachers Band! (photo by David Croft)

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.

IMG_6994
Once upon a time, I had the guts to get up and sing in front of people!

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!

Singing is good for you! It’s a positive, life-affirming thing and when you’re with a group of people making music it’s so much darn fun! This article talks about the benefits of singing for your health and wellbeing   but I  don’t need any convincing!

Singing is something I will have to find a way to bring back into my life. I didn’t include it as one of my 60 for 60 items. That was an oversight and something I will need to remedy.

I am not sure I have the level of commitment needed for a choir while I am still trapped in the day job, so I’ll be on the lookout for a Grannies’ garage band! 😆

I wrote about other aspects of music in my life in a post last year. You can read it here.

Our changing view of paedophiles.

Sexy is here to stayI found this newspaper advertisement in a recipe book my mum kept full of clippings of things she wanted to cook. It’s from 1975. It caught my eye for two reasons. It shows how our attitudes have changed, and it struck me as oddly relevant to my life at the time.

While the  #MeToo movement has highlighted the need for women (in particular) to be treated with more respect and dignity, things were different in 1976.  What we would consider sexual abuse or exploitation was a “normal” part of the landscape.

 

 

When I was 15, I used to walk home from school through the local shopping centre. I could take one of two routes. Either through the arcade (quicker) or up to the end of the shopping strip (more to see). This longer walk went past a butcher’s shop. The butcher, Bill, was a man somewhere between 35 and 40. He used to park is brown Porsche Carrera out the front of his store. I would sometimes slow down to look at it. He must have noticed me, and he would wave and smile. After a few weeks, the wave and smile turned into him coming out to say a few words, and then eventually me going in to chat with him. It all started pretty innocently. Then the talk started getting a bit risque. Flirting, I thought, and I was flattered that an older man with a Porsche would pay any attention to me, a silly school girl in a short skirt. It eventually became outright sex talk, and I felt excited! He was a sophisticated guy, and I felt so grown up! I knew it was “naughty,” but that was the risky part of it, the part that made it fun.

So I kept going by and talking to him.  It’s hard to remember the time frame now, but he asked me out. I was over the moon. Can you imagine how sophisticated I felt! I didn’t tell my mother, but my best friend’s mum was in on it, and she didn’t seem to think it was inappropriate. She gave me no warnings. There was no talk of the age gap beyond “Wow…he’s an older man paying attention to you; be flattered.” Mrs. J helped me get ready in a tight black dress and lace-up boots. I looked fabulous in a 70’s kind of way!

He picked me up from their house, and off we sped in the Porche. First, to a Chinese restaurant in Beverly Hills, where Bill winked at the creepy-looking maître d’. The maître d’ ran his eyes over me in a way that stopped my breath. This was my first inkling that things were a little more sinister than my naivety had allowed. The nervous, excited butterflies in my gut began to be replaced by more anxious thoughts. I didn’t have a Plan B. Plan B’s were not a thing in 1976; I had no money. I was a long way from home.

He bought a bottle of wine and poured me a glass. The drinking age is 18. The restaurant was breaking the law. “No problem,” said Bill “the owner is my friend.” After dinner, he suggested a movie. Sounded good to me, perhaps a little tipsy.

We went to Oxford Street in Sydney. These days a hip place with lots of bars that cater mostly to the LGBTIQ crowd, back then, about the only place you could see X-rated movies in Sydney. As we walked in, he handed the guy at the door some cash, presumably, a bribe since it was a restricted premise. We sat in the dark seats, I looked around, and  I realised there were not many other women there. The “action” started on screen. I felt sick! Uncomfortable. Scared. I said I didn’t want to watch anymore and would he take me home.

He did.

I’ll give this to Bill; he never tried anything I hadn’t said yes to. He never tried to kiss or touch me. We drove home from Sydney to my place. The one hour trip took less than  30 minutes.  He drove hard and fast in that Porsche, certainly exceeding the speed limit. He didn’t speak. I could sense he was angry.

From then I always went home via the arcade. I never saw Bill again. I had emerged unscathed.

More than forty years on I reflect on this and it stands out so clearly he was a paedophile. That he had been grooming me from the beginning. Starting with slightly rude jokes and working up to porn. Thankfully, he had some principles. It could have ended very differently. I don’t recall hearing words like paedophile then. Sure, there were creepy guys you avoided, but as a 15-year-old, I didn’t feel like a target. I hadn’t heard of books like Lolita. It just wasn’t a “thing”. Not in my world anyway.

“Things” have changed. The findings of the Royal Commission into Institutionalised Child Sexual Abuse shows this behaviour was rampant and people either turned a blind eye or didn’t think it was an issue in the first place.

I don’t characterise myself as a victim. I willingly, although naively, put myself in a place I should have avoided. In retrospect, I am concerned my friend’s mother did nothing but encourage me. I am glad to think this is less likely to happen now.

(Apologies to you mum! Here’s another story you didn’t know about!)

I wrote this post in response to the trial and later sentencing of Cardinal Pell; Australia’s highest ranking priest and a man who has caused misery to many.  If this post has caused you any distress, I urge you to seek help through some of the agencies that have been set up for this express purpose. Just because it happened a long time ago, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

These services may help:

https://www.blueknot.org.au/

https://bravehearts.org.au/

 

Digging for Dinosaurs.

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.

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.

No-one.

Ever.

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?

a women in a straw hat is kissing a dinosaur bone
Bec kisses the recovered rib bone

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.

A grren grassy hill in the forwground and a red hill with teh moon rising in the the left hand side.
The full moon rises over the Lervick Ranch at the end of another hard day.

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 other sort of mechanic

As part of my jogging route I go through a small, light industrial area to get to the beach. I walk past a brothel – relatively discrete but unmistakably a brothel. Recently, as I was out for an early morning workout, a car pulled up just as I was passing the front gate of the said brothel. I began to steadfastly study the ground, in fear of making eye contact with the customer and embarrassing us both. After all what he did at this time of the day was his business. He seemed agitated and bewildered.

“Excuse me is this Swan Street?” he said with a very heavy non-local accent.

“Yes… it’s Swan Street”  I replied quickly.

“I am looking for 108 Swan Street.”

We both turned to see the very large brass ‘108’ adorning the brothel gate.

“Well that’s it” I said pointing to the sign…. He looked very confused …

“But what is this place?”

“A brothel”  I said awkwardly.

“A brothel? What is this?” (in very broken English and with a thick accent….)

I looked to the sky for inspiration…“A sex shop.”

“A SEX shop??” A dawn of recognition came over his face.

“Yes” I said over my shoulder as I tried to walk away… He held up his phone to show me the screen

Where is mechanic

“My friend send me here – he told me it is mechanics…I come to get my car fixed”

“Well mate, you won’t be getting your car fixed here!  I think your friend might have been having a bit if a joke!”

He turned dejectedly on his heel and walked back to his car.

Was this a ruse on his part to obfuscate the fact he was just about to be seen walking into a brothel?  Or had some smart-Alec of a “friend” given him a wrong address on purpose?

Funny either way!