Monday, February 27, 2006

At the weekend, it was my turn on the roster to clean St Barnabas' Chapel, where Bernie and I worship each Sunday.
While I was there, I took the opportunity to photograph the tiles on the floor of the Chancel and Sanctuary. These floors are made of marble that came from somewhere near Torquay in Devon, England. They have been there for 125 years.

I have to confess that there have been many occasions when I have been distracted from the sermon, and mentally planned a quilt made from this block. I even sat down and drafted the pattern once, which is quite something for me, because measuring and drafting are not my favourite activities by a long shot! I have never seen this block/tile design in a book either, but others may have.

On a number of "shopping expeditions" to the mainland (Bernie calls them "holidays"), I would look out for suitable fabrics, with a marble-like appearance, and rich earthy colours. I chose a dark cherry red for the border.

But I never made the quilt, and most of the fabrics got used for other things, or were just added to my general "stash." You see, once I had the quilt all planned and fabrics assembled, the excitement of the creative process was finished for me. The rest would have been just tedious.

I would much rather be confronted with a miscellaneous pile of fabrics and embellishments, play around with them, let them "speak" to me, and see what develops!

But there may be someone else out there who is inspired by the pattern. It is based on an octagon rather than a nine-patch. I have a feeling Kaffe Fassett could do wonderful things with it!

Here is another part of the tile floor....a great border pattern perhaps?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Life doesn't get much better than this.

Matt said he would donate a whole row of ripe corn to freeze ready to feed the Tahitians when they come for Bounty. Now that was pretty generous of Matt, because not only does have commercial customers for his veges, but he and Susie have 3 strong growing boys.

When we got to the farm, Di and Matt had already done the picking, so we all got to work with the husking. We worked our way through 3 big tubs in no time.

Everyone pitched in, including Milt Taylor, our visiting Bush poet from Australia. You can see him round the boiler wearing his Aussie Akubra hat.

That's Bernie in his Tahitian pandanus hat.

We soon dispensed with knives and just used our hands.

Then we broke the cobs into halves and bagged most of them ready for the freezer. Some of them were blanched in the big boiler of water that Matt had heated up, but for most of it, we didn't bother.
Finally, Matt and the boys cooked a few cobs for us to enjoy...and enjoy it we did, with no salt, pepper or butter needed to enhance the wonderful taste.

Some of the husks were set aside for Colleen to dry and plait for Cornhusk hats. Bernie took the rest for Peter's pigs.

Finally we went upstairs and relaxed with a cuppa and slices of watermelon on "ar randa."



Saturday, February 25, 2006

There has been plenty going on here on Norfolk Island.
Apart from all the political stuff, which you may have been hearing about. I am keeping that for my other blog.
In the last week or so, we have had a Rock and Roll Festival, Opera in the Ruins, and Poetry in the Park. All of these attracted visiting artists as well as tourist and local participation. The week before, we had the Clay Target Shoot, which always attracts shooters from Australia and New Zealand. We are a lucky litle community. There is always a great deal going on, with great opportunities to participate and develop new skills and interests if you feel so inclined.
Meanwhile, here on the home front, I have been tackling the Crazy panels for my Lovely Lace wallhanging. Only about half of each panel can be seen in the pictures.
I pulled out some special fabrics, including a couple of lovely Japanese ones. Then I pieced two panels using some of the same fabrics in each panel.
The tatting is my own. I was taught by Cathy Snell, a lovely old island lady, about 38 years ago. But I will never be as fast or proficient as she was. The best I can manage is a motif or a short border before I make an unfixable mistake. However, that is just fine for using in my Crazy patchwork. The pink tatting is my very favourite design, and looks more complicated than it is.
I have decided to stick to white, cream and ecru for embellishing the seams, to harmonise with the lace. I have also challenged myself to try as many new seam treatments as I can in this project.
This afternoon, I have been doing a little topiary tree on one of the panels (not shown.) But I am unhappy with it, and may unpick it, going back on my own motto "Life is too short for unpicking."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

This is my favourite mug. It used to belong to a very dear lady who has since died. We have enough mugs and cups in this house to hold a teaparty on a grand scale, but when I needed a consoling warm drink, this was always the mug I reached for. It was like a reliable old friend, accepting and understanding.
Then Basil the cat knocked it over. It didn't break, but developed a distinct leak through the crack down one side. And now it has been relegated to new duties as a pen holder, and I hope it will continue to give years of faithful service.
Yesterday, I really needed my mug. There has been a turn of events on the island that has really disturbed and troubled me. I spent the day doing some very repetitive stitching while I reflected on things and tried to come to terms with potential change. I sipped hot tea through the day. That helped warm me on the inside. In the novel "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" the girl tells how each weekend, her mother brewed up milk coffee, and the family sat round the table sipping it. She rarely drank her coffee...just sat with her hands wrapped around the warm cup and drew strength from it. Tea, coffee and cocoa can sometimes be more of a "rite" than a thirst quencher.
I wished I had my favourite mug yesterday, and had to be content with second best.
So today I decided to buy a new mug. I have had my eye on this one for some time. It really speaks to me, and I feel as if it would be a good listener too. It is made by Spode, and the design is called "Sumatra." It has a bit of style..not your usual staight up and down model.
And did I feel better after my day of stitching and sipping tea?
I certainly felt calmer, but still felt I had so much bottled up that I wanted to say.
So I started a new "blog." I am hesitating to put it "out there" for general consumption, but have drawn it to the attention of those who need to know how their actions are affecting people.
That will be my soapbox.
In the meantime, I want to continue to keep "Devonhouse Recollections" positive, inspiring and entertaining.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


This is one of the panels from my wallhanging "Fruits in my Garden."
Grapes would have to be about my favourite food. I simply cannot pass a bowl of them without plucking several from the bunch to eat. A few more "passes", and they are gone! When some people eat grapes, they leave a fastidious little pile of skins and seeds...what a waste! The seeds are so crunchy. When I was a child in England, I seem to recall we had a breakfast cereal called "Grape Nuts"...... crunchy little pellets not unlike the real thing.
When the Devon Cottage garden and myself were both in our heyday, I had several grapevines growing. Most of them were the old Isabella variety, a purple grape that seems to do well on Norfolk, and has been growing in the old gardens for decades.
Most of the vines were sacrificed to make way for the more industrial enterprises of our younger generation, but there are still two or three vines there, bravely asserting their right to a place in the sun next to the tall timber dividing fences. There is also a very flavoursome little green grape which climbs over the early plums. They are all rather early bearers, and I find I need to share the fruit with the birds, who are always in search of something succulent and thirstquenching in the drier summer months.
I was delighted the other day when Charles brought me some lovely chilled bunches from the garden at the Pitcairn Settler's Village, where the grapes are evidently doing very well this year. On Norfolk, where no fruit is imported, we must enjoy what is seasonal and make the most of it. In fact, the climate is so mild and equable, that one almost marks the seasons by what trees are in fruit. At the moment, we are savouring figs, China pears, rockmelon, the last of the plums, and succulent little pineapples. In the next few weeks we will be picking feijoas and persimmons. I notice that the yellow Jamaican passionfruit are changing colour also. In the winter months we will have a variety of citrus, and the very juicy custard apples. Visitors to the island often find it hard to come to terms with the lack of fruit and vegetables in the shops, are do not appreciate the seasonality of what is available in a place where only potatoes and onions, garlic and ginger, can be imported.
Most of the fruit grown on Norfolk Island comes from home gardens, and the market is rather small to make commercial production viable. However, the fruit that we do get to enjoy, whether it is grown in our yards, given by friends and neighbours, or purchased from a store or a stall, is always fresh and naturally ripened.
Funnily enough, the best supplies of fresh produce are obtained from the island's three Butcher's shops!
"Plun" (bananas) are available most of the year round, and someone with a large bunch all ripening at once is always ready to share them around.
Then there are the cherry guavas (known as "porpay) which grow wild all over the place, and are freely available for the picking. Even the dog enjoys them! Peter's dog Mitti is shown here picking her own guavas from the bush in our front garden.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Sometimes I just want to tell the whole world just how beautiful Norfolk Island is.

This picture, taken from the peak of Mt Pitt (1000 feet, 300 metres), reminds me of the time way back in July,1966, when I first received my appointment to come and teach here. I came at 5 days' notice.

When I told my parents the news, my father's first reaction was "Oh, you are going to a place where you will be able to see the sun rise and set on the sea!"

From this lovely vantage point, looking at the ocean all around, you can be very aware of your isolation. On the other hand, you can also have a wonderful sense of being "safe at home."

Just a short walk from the top of Mt Pitt is its twin peak, Mt Bates.

This view faces south. The larger island, about 8kms away, is Phillip Island, and was denuded of vegetation in the Convict days when pigs, goats and rabbits were set free there. These animals have long gone, and there has been a process of revegetation in recent years. However, the island still retains its delicate pink colour.

The nearer island is Nepean, about 1 km away. This island was the site of quite an amount of stone quarrying in the days of the Penal settlement.

Neither island is inhabited, although Phillip has a fishermen's hut. Both are sanctuaries for seabirds such as gannets, terns and petrels.

The rather bare area to the right is our airstrip, which was first built during World War 2.

The built up area in the centre is our township and commercial centre, known as Burnt Pine. This is on a plateau area. The small strip of surf you can see just below the smaller island is Kingston, the site of the old penal colony. It is the only part of the island where the land slopes gently down to the shores, and there is a coral reef across the bay. The convict buildings still house the main administration offices of the island, as well as residences for seconded government officials. It is somewhat confusing to newcomers that the older Norfolkers still refer to this area as "town". This, in fact, is where the Pitcairners lived when they first arrived in 1856, occupying the stone convict settlement buildings, which had been left empty when the penal colony was moved to Tasmania. It was only later that they began to move "up country," settling on their grants of land.

Some days, Mt Pitt is shrouded in mist. On those days, you do become aware of your isolation, because you know that with the reduced visibility, the aircraft (from Australia andNew Zealand) may not come in until conditions improve.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

There are very few of us who do not enjoy a beautiful rose, with its subtle colouring and delicate fragrance.
We manage to grow a few roses on Norfolk Island, but they do not thrive as well as they would in a climate with a cooler winter. Where our daughter lives in Matamata, New Zealand, they almost seem to grow like weeds. When our granddaughter Emily was born, the midwife gave Trevor the placenta in a plastic bag, and suggested he bury it in the garden and plant something over it. The climbing rose he planted on top of it was truly rampant, with prolific blooms!.
The rose in the picture grows in many older Norfolk gardens. Some rose fanciers will recognise it as "Souvenir de Malmaison". However, we call it the "Bice" rose, because it was evidently introduced to Norfolk by a Charles Bice, who was one of the workers in the Melanesian Mission, which had its headquarters on Norfolk from the 1860's to 1920. There were actually a number of exotic and useful plants introduced at this time, by the Mission staff who were mostly English, and perhaps missed the cottage gardens they were used to back in England.
Around St Barnabas Chapel itself, many exotic trees were planted, and many of these are now magnifent and mature specimens.
Back to roses, which are much loved by both gardeners and craftsmen, including embroiderers.
Grub roses and silk ribbon roses are a great stand-by for embellishing all sorts of projects.
I was wanting to portray roses in crazy patchwork, so I experimented with a stitch and flip technique, and later embellished the roses with lots of embroidery and beads.

It was quite some time after I had made these bags (I made a couple in a purple/mauve version) that I saw the same piecing technique on the cover of a book by Valori Wells in a catalogue. Perhaps I had unconsciously got my inspiration from seeing this book advertised somewhere in the first place. But then again, I was quite capable of dreaming it up for myself!

Now I would like to work out a way of making the flowers look a little more "organic", with softer edges. Perhaps I could use a combination of "stitch and flip" piecing and applique.

A number of these roses, in different shades and colours, would look wonderful in a wallhanging.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

"Have you seen the signs along Cascade Road?" asked my son. "They have been having some fun."
So at the first opportunity, off I went, armed with my camera.
Evidently, it all started with this one.

Soon this one appeared just along the road.

And these two were soon displayed along the same stretch of road.

Then, not to be outdone, Bryan, our vet got into the spirit of things with this sign.

Continuing in the same vein, of making the description fit the house.....

Finally, in case you didn't get the joke........

Watch this space...there are sure to be more.

But don't you love the Norfolker's sense of humour?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

If we were calendar-markers, we would most certainly make February 14th a red-letter day.
For most people, it is significant because it is St Valentine's Day, but that is a bit of a non-event in our household. Not because there is no love or romance, but we did not grow up with the custom of celebrating it as they do nowadays.
February 14th was the birthday of Bernie's paternal grandmother, Clara "Sett" Bailey. It is also the day that Fletcher Christian Apartments took in its very first guests 41 years ago, and we had a suitable celebratory lunch today out at Branka House with Di, our Manager, and Josie, our housekeeper.
It is also 40 years today since Australia introduced Decimal Currency.
This was a big change for people in Australia. Many saw it as a sign of increasing Americanisation. Older folk were really anxious as to how they would cope with dealing with the new currency, in spite of public education, and assurances that the change would be gradual, and prices would be displayed in both forms for some time.
I recall there was much discussion about names for the new coins and notes. The Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was very keen to call the new basic unit (equivalent of 10/-) the "Royal". A counter suggestion was that it could be called a "Ming", which was Menzies' nickname! There was strong public support for using the Aussie slang names such as "Bob" for a shilling and "zac" for sixpence. In the end, conservative cautiousness prevailed, and we were stuck with dollars and cents.
The old threepence (the "tray") posed a real problem. There was no equivalent in decimal currency, as it would equal 2 1/2 cents. People complained that they would be properly ripped off because most traders would up this to three cents, rather than lower it to two.
It is amazing how many people remember D-day. I remember shopping in Farmers store(now Myers) in Sydney that afternoon, and seeing the dual prices displayed.
The transition proved easier than we had imagined, although most of us mentally converted the dollars and pounds in our minds for quite a time. The schoolchildren were certainly glad to be free of those complicated pounds, shillings and pence sums!
But the passing of the penny was sad. There was nothing nicer than a bright and shiny new penny for a small child. It was so heavy and substantial, and two of them paid for a phone call in a Public Telephone box, or a packet of Wrigleys chewing gum.
We lived beside the West Kensington tramline, and occasionally sacrificed a whole penny by placing it on the track to see how much the tram would distort it!

This picture shows an old English farthing, a florin (two shillings. Remember?), a NZ half-crown(minted as late as 1965), a Crown (5 shillings) and a $200 coin given to me by my mother.

I wonder if the $200 coin will ever be worth any more than $200?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

This afternoon, I finished this little crazy patchwork needlebook. At long last.

The needlebook(or at least, the top/outside part) was made in a Round Robin I took part in over three years ago. After I had done the basic piecing, it winged its way round Australia and New Zealand for five other ladies...Internet Crazy Quilting embellish it. When it arrived home, I was really pleased with it, but it went into a drawer to wait its turn to be made up into something useful. And I finally got around to it, and gave it a lining, and a set of woollen pages inside. And it took no more than half an hour, which makes me wonder why it took me so long to decide to do it.

There are quite a few other UFO's (unfinished objects) in the drawer. Maybe this will give me the impetus to tackle some of them too! Meanwhile I am going to equip this pretty little piece with an assortment of needles, and add it to my sewing basket.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


We so often think of the natural world as being something that appears random, asymmetric, organic.
Not so.
When I came across these gum logs, I immediately imagined the woodsman had been having great fun making patterns with his router.
But I am told that these wonderful maze-like designs have been created by beetle larvae tunnelling beneath the bark.
What wonderful designs for quilting, or cut-away applique!!

Meanwhile, these immature Norfolk pines display that intrigueing five point star pattern around the central trunk. They really are so beautiful and symmetrical at this stage.
Louise Menadue, who lived on Norfolk Island for many years, was fascinated and inspired by these stars, and wrote a lovely children's story called "Norfolk Stars." Louise was an incredibly creative lady, a great gardener and floral artist, needleworker, poet and writer. She appreciated and valued the people and the world around her....something I like to call "savouring"...and a quality I would love to emulate.
Back to the pines. As they mature, and move on through their lifespan, which can be hundreds of years in the right environment, weathering and age may cause their trunks to become become knobbly, their branches irregular, and some of them may actually branch out into two or three trunks if there has been some damage to the crown. Instead of looking like schoolgirls in a row, each one develops its own unique and individual character!
A bit like us humans, don't you think?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Pigs are both intelligent and endearing animals.
There is always great excitement when a new litter arrives out at Simon's Water. However, the joy is always tempered with a degree of anxiety, because new piglets are very prone to mishap in the first few days. Often there are one or two who are simply not strong enough to suckle, while others may be lost when the mother inadvertently squashes them before they are strong enough to wriggle out from under her.
Mother Pig gave birth to her third litter the other day, and as usual Peter had a couple of sleepless nights as he got up every hour to check on them. I suspect that in larger piggeries, they just have to take their chances, and losing a few is part and parcel of it all.

These little fellows (and hopefully a few girls) had just been born about an hour before the photo was taken. The vet has now been and given them iron injections, which they need if they are on concrete and not coming into contact with dirt. They have also had the sharp points taken off their teeth, so there will be fewer "ouches" for Mum!

One can well believe the stories about pigs as house pets. They are actually very fussy animals about cleanliness (where it matters). They are also able to bond well with humans.

Take "Oinky". She was born to a mum who, for some reason, could not provide milk for that litter, and she was the only survivor, and was hand-reared by Peter. She would follow him round like a dog, and would have made herself right at home in his flat if she were allowed.

In this picture she is having a little chat to my great-nephew Teddy. Oinky is now a mother herself.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Take your fishing boat out for a morning, gather together a few friends and rellies, heat up the oil in the cookers, bring on some bread and butter and salad, and you have a Norfolk Island Fish Fry.
A marvellous way of entertaining and feeding a crowd, and maybe raising funds for a good cause.

Last weekend, there was a big Fish Fry out at the Parish Centre, and we fed about 110 people in great style with fish, chips and lots of delicious salads and island style dishes, including pilhi, muddha, and sweet island pies.......lemon, coconut, passionfruit and guava.

Frying the fish and chips, including preparing the batter, is definitely a man's role, and Duncan ("Coon"), Brian ("Golla"), Roy and Ray certainly did us proud. Edie, meanwhile, had decorated the hall beautifully, as well as making pies and trifle. Everyone brought dishes to share, and there were a couple of enormous succulent watermelons to share round.

The entertainment was definitely "island style" also, with the 4 Nobbs brothers and Michelle on keyboards, ukeleles (produced at Rocky Point Joinery), accordion, and mouth organ, Tony on ukele, and Wiggy strumming on his wonderful Tea Chest Bass. The music created a great spontaneous atmosphere, and not only was everyone singing along, but there was plenty of dancing...rock and roll, waltzing, disco, and Tahitian dancing, often all at the same time!

The Fish Fry was planned by the recently formed Association of Bounty Descendants in Norfolk(usually called the Tahiti group) to raise funds to help entertain their Tahiti cousins when they come to help celebrate our sesqui-centenary Bounty Day on JUNE 8.

The association has been formed by the 26 Norfolkers who, last October, accepted the invitation to help their Tahitian cousins celebrate the 217th anniversary of the Bounty sailing in to Matavi Bay on October 23, 1788 (some months before the Mutiny.) Up until recently, the Norfolk Bounty descendants have only had close contact with the Bounty descendants on Pitcairn. So the Tahiti visit proved to be a very moving and emotional time, and they experienced intense feelings of kinship and of their common culture and ethnic roots, in spite of the language barrier. There were other Bounty descendants there too, from the Cook Islands, Pitcairn, Hawaii, Tubai and even Chile.

While the Norfolkers were in Tahiti, they were entertained, accommodated and fed right royally by the Tahitians, who, after years of having their cultural roots ignored by successive governments, were delighted to meet long-lost relatives who shared and valued the same heritage. The fact that David Buffett, one of our own Government ministers, was part of the group, gave the Tahitian group a measure of official government recognition in Tahiti, for which they were extremely grateful.

If the success of Saturday's get-together is anything to go by, we are all going to have a wonderful time in June.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A lovely collection of songs, written by Norfolk Islanders about Norfolk Island, feature on a CD that was launched on Sunday. The CD has been produced by our good friend Don Christian-Reynolds, and his cousin Kath King, who have themselves composed many of the songs they present in the recording.
Donald has been writing and singing for many years, and has taught guitar and ukelele to many young people. He is the President of our local Community Arts Society, and has been responsible for encouraging many young folk to get up and perform confidently before an audience. One of the Society's most recent ventures was a "Kids for Kids" concert, where the young ones ran the whole show to raise funds for NISEDU (Norfolk Island Special Education Unit.)
Kath is a young wife and mother, who has discovered a talent for capturing the special Norfolk idiom in song. One of her compositions, "Ai Guud"(I am just Fine) is an incredibly catchy melody that has you singing along the first time you hear it. Another song "Tiich Mi Hau f' Lew" (Teach me How to Live) was inspired by the time she spent as a young girl watching the turtles in the blue water below their clifftop home at Duncombe Bay, and imagining the great wisdom they must have acquired in their long lives. This song features in three different arrangements on the CD, including a very modern setting arranged by students at the Centre for Contemporary Music Studies at Macquarie University in Sydney.
I am not particularly musical myself, but love the way that music and song can capture the spirit and culture of a community and a people in a very meaningful way. In many ways, music and song are the most accessible of all the arts, because not only can you enjoy listening, but you can go on to enhance that enjoyment by performing, even if it is only singing in the shower!!
Just lately, I have realised that I often describe the creative process I use to produce a piece of textile art in musical terms. I think of the piece as a composition, or an arrangement of different elements. A successful composition must have rhythm, repetition, and balance. If I give prominence to a particular element in one part of my piece, then I must echo it in other areas. I work with tones and overtones. I try to use colours that sing! If it all comes together well, I will have created a piece that has harmony. However, some of the liveliest and most memorable pieces will be ones where I have managed to incorporate a degree of discord successfully. The different elements I use will determine the mood of my piece, be it lively, busy, romantic, restful, or sombre. And of course, if I am to consider my "audience", I must give thought to the presentation of my work, and the background and setting will be important.
I will finish with a picture of a little bag I made that definitely falls into the classic, romantic category!

Sunday, February 05, 2006


There was a very old Satsuma plum tree growing right next to Devon Cottage, where great-aunt Charlotte lived. For many years it had provided fruit in season for family and friends.
Then in 1986, the year that Charlotte died at the age of 101, the old plum tree also died....except for just one limb, which continued to produce new shoots.
We asked our friend Hugh Sampson, who was a nurseryman, if he could try to graft a new tree from the branch, which he did, using peach rootstock.
The new tree was planted in the same spot as the old one, and over the years has grown into a magnificent specimen, producing long drooping branches, which carry so much fruit that they are clustered almost like bunches of grapes.
This year, the plum tree had become somewhat like a one-tree jungle, and anyone venturing into the centre needed a map to find their way out! So son John gave it a fairly savage pruning, reducing the size of the tree by about two thirds. Nevertheless, it has still produced a bounteous crop of blood-red Satsuma plums, and I have been busy making jam and sauce.
Plum sauce is a great favourite of mine, and is a most versatile addition to any pantry or store cupboard. It goes well with any meat, hot or cold, is a great tangy accompaniment to a curry, has a wonderful zest as a marinade or in a stir-fry, and adds a rich depth of flavour to a braised meat dish or a casserole.
Take about 2 kg (4lb) of chopped plums, with stones removed. You can add some apple/peaches/mango/ tomatoes (tinned or fresh) for flavour variation.
Add 2 - 2 1/2 cups of vinegar and 2 cups of sugar. I use white sugar and vinegar because the sauce then has a wonderful rich red colour instead of brown.
Throw in generous quantities of minced ginger and garlic, and boil it till it is good and thick.
Put into bottles/jars.
We have other plum trees at the cottage with different varieties, but the Satsuma is by far the best. All the others are sweet on the outside, but quite sour near the stone. I also make sauce from these, but it is definitely on the "tangy" side!
When I was a child in England, my great-aunt Sally lived next to a plum orchard in a village near Canterbury. She actually used to send us plums in the post. Parcels always arrived by the next day back then! I have nostalgic memories of eating plums with magical-sounding names like damsons, greengages and medlars.
Plums remind me of a lovely piece of fabric I was given by my friend Maggie, who knows I love fruit fabrics. It is a very rich fabric, ideal for blending and harmonising in a textile piece. Actually, a couple of years ago, I made a Crazy Patchwork quilt using fabrics from my rather extensive fruit and vegetable collection. It is draped over the back of the sofa in our lounge room, and is a cheerful addition to the room.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A bit of nostalgia today as I remember it is the anniversary of the day the Winch family set sail from Tilbury docks in England aboard the P&O Liner S.S.Mooltan, many years ago.
One morning, tired of miserable foggy weather, and getting up to a child who was coughing all night, my father declared: "That's it - we are migrating!"
That very day, he and my mother headed up to London and to New Zealand House. Ironically, the first person they spoke to was abrupt with them, so they went straight to Australia House, and thus everything was set in motion!

Six weeks aboard ship was a great adventure for a seven year old. I did not mind that we were on the lowest deck, in a sex segregated cabin which my mother, my sister and I shared with females from two other families.
On the trip, I fell in love for the first time (well, almost) with an Irish sailor called Paddy O'Reilly. Even after reaching Sydney, we called to see Paddy everytime the Mooltan was in port for a couple of years ...but really, I guess, it was only a shipboard romance!
The Bay of Biscay crossing was very rough, and we were all so sick, that we did not notice my 11 year old sister's absence. That is, until the ship's nurse appeared at the cabin door with Sally, her head all bandaged. A freak wave had washed over the top deck, breaking a pane of glass!!
Nearly all the children on board caught the measles - except me. However, during one of the longest stretches between ports, I was taken to the ship's doctor with a small rash. He took my temperature, and I bit the thermometer in half, much to his annoyance.
There were six ports of call..Port Said (even then, too dangerous for us to go ashore), Aden, Colombo, Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne.
There was a Ship's concert, and after the pre-arranged items, they asked for volunteers to come on stage. Much to my parent's embarrassment, I went up and sang. Then I volunteered to play the piano. After all, I had never been near one before, and this was my big chance!
A fancy dress parade aboard ship really tested my mother's skills of improvisation, but she produced a wonderful "Little Dutch Girl"outfit for me out of crepe paper, golden plaits and all. Crepe paper was used alot for dress-ups in those days.

This photo shows my sister and myself near the ship's pool in our shirred swimming costumes. Nearly all our clothes were made by Mum in those days. Just before our sea voyage, Mum had bought us each two dresses from Marks and Spencers, because she had not had time to fit us out properly for the voyage. Today's kids would really snigger at the homemade outfits! But we thought our mum was really clever. I still have her Singer sewing machine, which was secondhand when she married in 1937, and it still sews beautifully.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I have been making slow progress on my old lace wallhanging. This is partly because of the heat and holiday distractions, but also partly because I am doing as much unpicking as sewing.
That statement comes from someone whose motto is "Life is too short for unpicking!"
It is proving quite difficult to get the lace to sit straight on the velvet background, in spite of close pinning and tacking. I am even resorting to measuring, which is not one of my favourite activities!
It was some consolation when my dear friend Joy, who owns the book from which I took my inspiration, said that the lace on the wallhanging in the book is actually far more skew-whiff (sp?) than mine!
But it is worth persevering, as some of the laces are so lovely.
The one at the top with the crowns was from a piece given to me by Judith Baker Montano. I was doing a workshop with her, and commented on the lovely lace with crowns that she sometimes uses in her pieces. Judith asked me "Would you like a piece?" and proceeded to her box of supplies and cut me lengths from two different crown laces, the other one being an eyelet lace. She told me that she had discovered these laces in Australia, and that they had originally been made for Edward VIII's Coronation, which never took place.
Now the second picture..well, wow! That was the cuff from a Bishop's vestments. Isn't it beautiful? It was given by a friend who actually used the matching cuff for making some knickers for a doll!
I must confess to becoming seriously covetous when I am watching ecclesiastical occasions, such as the Pope's coronation. Some of those laces, brocades and embroideries are just mouth-watering, and I find myself wondering if they ever get recycled!
I am not sure if the Bishop's cuff will find its way onto my wallhanging. It deserves to be the centrepiece of its own special project. I must put the word out among my ecclesiastical friends.
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