Sunday, August 26, 2007


Living in a place that borders on the subtropical, with a climate that can best be described as mild and equable, one is not as conscious of the cycle of the seasons as keenly as someone in the higher latitudes. Mind you, yesterday was cold, wet and windy enough for us to burn the fire all day......but today, after an initial period of mist and drizzle, the sun is coming out, and you could sit out on our front verandah in short sleeves.

This month's theme for the Fabric book Round Robin is "Autumn", and I was not sure how I was going to tackle it. The first thing one thinks of is autumn foliage, but we do not see those colours here. About the only tree I can think of that takes on those beautiful bronze hues before the leaves fall is our Persimmon tree - and I was a little late this year getting a picture of it in all its glory.

It is not that we don't have plenty of colourful foliage here, but most of it is those beautiful tropical reds and pinks and greens, and can be seen all year round.

Another difficulty for me is that I have convinced myself that I do not like autumn colours. I much prefer pastels and jewels and primaries, and all the shades in between. Part of the problem is having lived through a time 35-40 years ago when the whole world seemed to be saturated with consumer and decorator goods and clothing in burnt oranges and olives and browns, and I had an overdose. However, in recent times, I have discovered that if you throw in a healthy amount of rich red and purple and bronzey gold, then the autumn hues take on a new character.
Back to the book. For the first page, I decided to portray the "Spirit of Autumn". I had an image in my mind for months of how she would be portrayed. I planned to use a mixture of multi-coloured exotic yarns for her hair. But when I tried it out, it looked awful, so I settled for some crinkly vivid orange silk fibres that I had recently purchased in a collection, and within minutes, I had the effect I wanted. A wreath using some of my treasured collection of leaf beads completed the effect I wanted. The face was actually a doll's face, but had the wistful look I needed.

The background is some silk paper, and the piece of fabric at the base is from one of the most wonderful ties I have come across in my Op Shop adventures. The frill at the bosom line is one of those new knitting ribbons - a gift from Holly in W.A.
The second page uses some of the colourful foliage we have here, in autumn colours, but not strictly speaking autumn foliage. A row of Acalypha bushes grow outside our bedroom window. They are known as "Red Leaf" here. About 40 years ago, Bernie's cousin Marie used to export the leaves in bundles to New Zealand, where they were used by florists in wreaths.

I love incorporating the written word into images and pictures, so I printed part of a dictionary page onto "fabric paper" for the background. I scanned the leaves and printed them onto silk, cut them out, and lightly burned the edges to seal them. Then I put them, along with some crinkly yarns and threads into a somewhat loose and random arrangement - because that is the way they grow!!!
In spite of not caring much for autumn colours, I am definitely an autumn person. I just love the cooler days, and the opportunity to snuggle under the covers instead of throwing them off at night. My energy levels are higher in the more comfortable temperatures. Spring is a lovely time of year, too, but for me it is spoilt by the thought that the pleasant balmy days will soon give way to humidity and water shortages.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I don't believe I have ever seen such a beautiful flower.

It belongs to the broad-leafed Meryta, growing outside the office at Fletcher Christian Apartments. The Meryta is endemic to Norfolk Island - although I believe a very close relative grows on the Three Kings Islands at the far north of New Zealand. There are quite a few growing round the island, especially since the Forestry Depaartment started propagating them, and we have several in our driveway. But I have never seen one bloom as brightly and spectacularly as this one. Needless to say, the bees are enjoying a real feast!

Meanwhile, while I had my camera out, I thought I would capture a very pretty azalea.

And then the hydrangea, whose flowers , although dried out, stay on the bush right through winter, and take on a beautiful range of colours after they have lost their original fresh blues.

And finally the long-legged begonias, which bloom profusely right through the winter!


Today there was a great gathering of locals at the Norfolk Island Airport. They were there to farewell a large contingent of Norfolkers who were setting off for Samoa for the South Pacific Games. Among them was Peter, who is off to play squash, the culmination of many months of training.

Some of the Norfolk contingent setting off on a street parade last Saturday

Today is Peter's birthday. Because he is crossing the dateline, when he wakes up tomorrow, it will still be his birthday, so he will have two days of celebrations!

There are teams from Norfolk Island in Squash, Tennis, Golf, Bowls, Netball and Clay Target shooting. One of the youngest competitors is Phoebe Evans, who, at 15, is representing Norfolk in Bowls!!

They are all going to have a great time competing and enjoying meeting up with their Pacific neighbours in a lovely tropical environment.

Peter caught unawares actually smiling for the camera! (Pity about the black spot on his nose - that is some dust in my camera!)

Meanwhile, arriving on the same plane were Kim, Charles and William. Kim and William have been enjoying family time with Kim's parents in Wellington for 6 weeks, so you can imagine how excited we were to see our grandson again.

Charles has spent a few days in Wellington with kim and William before they all came home today.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


I hope you will indulge me a little trip down memory lane, while I dwell on some "recollections" about the corner shop.
The corner store figured large in my childhood. Actually, in Todman Avenue, a block and a half from our flat (which would be called a unit in this day and age), there was a group of three shops on the corner. The first was a Butcher's, and the third was a little grocery store. Neither of these interested me much. It was Nick Kakos' shop, in the middle, that I loved.
Nick and his wife Helen were Greek, as were many people in that area. It would be hard to say what sort of a shop it was......perhaps a modern day convenience store.
You entered through a screen door, and the counter went down one side and along the back. The back counter was the "Milk Bar" section. There were a couple of small tables and chairs where you could eat an ice cream Sundae, or drink a Milkshake. I must admit that my pocketmoney did not usually run to these luxuries. But I could usually manage an iceblock. These were simple affairs. In those days, many Milk bars actually made their own. They were rectangular blocks made from frozen Soft drink (Shelley's brand, of course.) The ice block would be wrapped in a square of newspaper, which was pretty soggy by the time you had finished. I can remember buying my first Paddle Pop at Nick's shop - what a novelty. I really loved the Caramel ones.
You could buy icecream cones of course, but larger blocks came in cardboard containers. If we had visitors to tea, Mum would open a tin of peaches, and I would be sent down to Nick's shop at the very last minute to buy a carton of Street's Ice Cream. We had no freezer to store it.
Beside the Milk Bar area was the fruit and vegetable counter, with trays of beans, carrots and potatoes, apples, oranges and bananas. There was usually a big pumpkin, and a large sharp knife to cut off wedges. Everything was weighed in the hanging scales. It was here I had my one and only shoplifting experience. One time, while waiting to be served, I could not resist the temptation to grab a couple of raw beans to chew. Nick saw me, and I made a quick escape. I had to wait some weeks until I thought he may have forgotten the incident!
Next to the Green grocery area was a large glass case, with all the lollies. What patience the shopkeepers had in those days as children stood and made important decisions about how to spend their pennies. Chocolate bullets were 8 a penny, and those tiny cachou sweets were 16 a penny! A penny could also buy you a couple of "conversation lollies", three mint leaves, a couple of aniseed balls, a musk stick, a licorice stick, a "cobber" or a "clinker", a freckle, a rainbow ball or a "gobstopper." Twopence would buy you a longer licorice strap, or a "slate pencil" which was a grey aniseed flavoured stick which would actually make marks on the pavement.
There were two kinds of sherbert. The smaller bag, costing 3d. was nicer, but the larger bag (5d.) with a raspberry flavoured sherbert actually had a thick "straw" made of licorice.
For 3d you could buy a "Curl", which was a chocolate covered bar of chewy toffee. Fourpence would buy you a Choo-choo bar, a sticky black bar of chewy sticky licorice flavoured toffee. They would last for ages. A packet of Wrigley's chewing gum, with four candy-coated pellets, could be bought for 2d.. and you could choose from 3 flavours - spearmint, P.K. and Juicy Fruit. I never did find out what P.K. stood for! Fruit Tingles cost 3d for a roll, and Lifesavers (mainly just peppermint in those days) cost 4d.
Along the back shelf, there were the larger packets of sweets, like Minties, Jaffas, Fantales and Columbines. My friend and I usually had to pool our finances to afford one of these. At the back of the shop also were the big tins of Arnotts and Peak Freans biscuits, which were always sold loose by the quarter and half pound in those days. Nick also sold a few other odds and ends, like combs and stationery and headache powders (like Bex and Vincents' A.P.C.) My friend was always being sent to buy Vincents' powders for her mum...I think she took them as a preventative measure!

Funnily enough I have no memories of ever being in the shop with my parents. They bought their weekly groceries and fruit and veges from shops down in the main shopping centre. They would leave a list, and pick it up each Friday. Nick Kakos' was the sort of shop that Mum sent the kids to, to pick up something at the last minute. It was also the sort of place you met other kids after school.

Outside Nick's shop was the tram terminus, so there was a wooden seat where the kids would linger while they enjoyed their goodies. Shopkeepers did not do much about window dressing in those days, although many used to display those tantalising "dummy" blocks of Cadbury's chocolate. But I do recall a time when there was a handwritten notice in Nick's window, appealing for donations to help earthquake victims back in Greece.
I suspect that Nick and Helen Kakos may actually have owned the freehold to all three shops, and the land behind. In later years, they built a two storey house on the vacant block behind the shops. At that time, all the two storey buildings around that area were blocks of flats. We all said that he must have made a fortune in his business!
As they got older, they brought a nephew and his wife out from Greece, and installed him in the house next door on the other side. Gradually he took over the work in the shop, and it just didn't seem the same without Nick there.
Local corner stores, such an important part of our life and culture in those days, have largely disappeared. Today's children are far more familiar with supermarkets and Malls. And the "temptations" are far more exciting than a couple of fresh beans. But the opportunity to make those careful and considered purchases from the lolly counter certainly taught us the value of money, and the importance of making the right choices before we handed our pennies over.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Here are two more pages from my book about Devon House. These two pages show some more of what grows here. The first shows the plums and the grapes.

I have written about the plums before. These are only two of many fruits we have growing here. Some were planted many years ago by previous generations!

There are plums (5 varieties), grapes, loquats (currently in season), peaches, bananas, red and yellow guavas, China pears, avocadoes, nectarines, Custard apples, feijoas, persimmon, bush lemons and Meyer lemons, a rather tart mandarin, 2 kinds of grapefruit, 2 kinds of passionfruit, macadamias, and figs. We also have two very old orange trees that we did not know were there in the eleven years we have been back in this old family home. They have been hidden by bush, and only started bearing again last year, perhaps because some clearing enabled the light to get to them. What a bonus!

This page shows the Jamaican passionfruit, complemented by a beautiful bright orange hibiscus which grows beside Devon Cottage. I am quite proud of this passionfruit, because the plant was grown from tinned passionfruit pulp! Some years ago, I put some leftover fruit salad from Bounty Day into my worm farm. Then I used the worm compost in my pot plants. Next thing I had hundreds of little passionfruit plants coming up. It is a little tart, but has plenty of fruit in the shell, and seems to bear prolifically when the other kinds are out of season.

We recently planted another Mandarin, and I have an Egyptian lime in a pot nearly ready to plant out.

People coming to this island really miss the aisles of colourful, evenly sized and unblemished fruit that you see in the supermarkets of Australia and New Zealand. We do not import any of it. Everything here is seasonal and locally grown. Much of it never reaches the shops, because it is only being grown on a domestic scale. You may have to go searching for your fruit, but at least you know it is probably organically grown, fresh, and ripened by the sun!!!

Monday, August 06, 2007


A few years ago, if you had invited me to learn something about making felt, I would probably not have been interested. To me, felt was bland and uninteresting, like clay. It was an era when those who worked with wool tended to breed all different sorts of sheep to get a variety of colours, but they were still stuck with just whites, creams, greys and browns. Some adventurous spinners and weavers used natural dyes, which were also too subdued for my taste. It did not seem to occur to anyone to just dye it with some of the wonderful dyes that you can get today.

A year or two ago, Holly from Western Australia showed me how to make felt in my kitchen. It took about five minutes to make a piece big enough to make a bag. I was very tempted to explore further.....

Then I started to read about silk paper. I love anything silk! Silk paper is like felt, but because the fibres do not have the little hooks that wool fibres have, you need to bind them together with a textile medium.

So I was off on a journey to find the silk fibres I needed - via the Internet of course. I came down to land at The Thread Studio, a fabulous company in Perth, Western Australia. There I found not only a wonderful array of both silk and wool fibres in an absolute rainbow of colours, but all sorts of other fabulous goodies for the textile artist.

As if that was not enough, someone then told me about embellishing or needlefelting machines. They are like a sewing machine, but do not use thread. Instead they have a group of barbed needles that felts your fabrics and fibres together. There were enormous possibilities for creating!!

So I asked son Charles if he would order me one of these machines through his business, figuring that a new toy would be as good as a holiday - and I have not taken one of those for three years now!

The machine arrived last Monday - right on my birthday, as luck would have it. With a newly acquired stash of silk and wool fibres, I was ready to play!Although I sat down and experimented with the techniques for a while last week, and got used to the workings of my new toy, today was the first time I actually sat down to produce something.

I made a background of silk paper, and then applied mainly silk fibres with the machine. But because I seem to have every colour imaginable except for the all-important dark green, I used a few of the wool fibres. Actually, the wool seems to work a bit better than the silk. I tried using some exotic acrylic yarns for the stalks, but they would not "grab" well at all. Next time I will raid my stash of tapestry and crewel wools.

The picture is definitely not finished. It needs some surface embroidery and/or some beads. A suggestion of some seed heads or Queen Anne's lace perhaps, to give it some liveliness.

For the past couple of years I have been on the lookout for old pure wool jumpers at the Op shop. They make wonderful "felt" if you throw them in the washing machine and break all the rules about washing wool. I believe the process is called "fulling" rather than felting. I think they are going to make an ideal base for some embellishing work, and will be better than the pellon I used for today's project.

Friday, August 03, 2007


Quite a few of the locals were down at the Kingston Oval last Saturday to watch the football. But if you had just happened to be passing by, and did not really know what was going on, you may have been a bit surprised and puzzled.

They were definitely not your typical mob of fit and muscled young hunks. Some of them were somewhat on the portly side, and there were quite a few grey hairs. The pace was definitely a little slower than normal, and many of the players almost seemed to be treating each other with uncharacteristic courtesy and respect!
This was a "Golden Oldies" game, with the visiting Brisbane team playing our local "Convicts."

To be a Golden Oldie, you must be over 35, but there is no upper age limit, as these pictures will show. This is Cyril, who is kicking a goal after successfully scoring a try! Cyril will be 92 next birthday, I believe.You will notice that Cyril is wearing yellow pants. Some of the other players wore red pants. I believe these are like a notice that says "Careful - hands off - I am a bit fragile!" But if that is the price of being able to really get in and enjoy yourself the way you used to, then that is fine! There are other modifications to the rules too, but the enthusiasm of both players and spectators is every bit as strong as if it were a conventional game!

The funny thing was that at the end of the game, no one seemed to know who had won, let alone the score! That did not seem to be the point of the exercise.

Meanwhile, on the sidelines, some of the kids had set up their own informal game, no doubt inspired by their dads, granddads and uncles out there on the field.

Another Golden Oldies team is here from Bundaberg this weekend. We look forward to more action on the field!
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