Saturday, September 29, 2007


It is a funny thing about cousins. They may go for years without making any contact with one another, but when they do get together, it is a real cause for celebration, and they find they really enjoy each other's company. There are often shared memories of family occasions in childhood, and of grandparents and aunts and uncles . There is the delight of discovering values and attributes and interests that they have in common, and the excitement of catching up on all the news and events of the intervening years. Cousins may not have seen or corresponded for a decade, but snippets of news may have reached them through other family members, and when they meet, they just seem to take up where they left off!

This is how it has been at Devon this week.

The Slaters celebrated their 10th Wedding Anniversary the day after they arrived. Bronte wanted to dress up, because she had missed the original wedding celebration!!

On Monday my niece Mandy Slater, her husband Dave and 6 year old Bronte arrived. It was Mandy's first visit for 25 years, although she has met up with most of the Christian-Bailey cousins on 2 or 3 occasions in that time. Bronte, was of course, delighted to spend time with her little cousins Teddy and Sienna. Even before the McRitchies moved to Norfolk Island last December, they lived in a different state to the Slaters, so there has been much excitement among the little ones.

Sarah and Emily meet Bronte for the first time, and they all get introduced to the youngest new cousin William. who had his half-birthday last week!!!

Then the next day, Thursday, Sarah and Emily arrived from New Zealand. Not only did they meet up with Bronte, Mandy and Dave for the first time, but there was also the joy of meeting the newest family member William.

How delighted my parents , Nana and Grandad Winch, would be to see so many of their descendants having such a wonderful reunion, and celebrating "FAMILY" .

There has been lots of noise, a great deal of happy chatter, and much laughter as funny incidents from the past, and the foibles and eccentricities of various relatives are recalled!

I have given up counting heads and places at mealtimes. But by the time all the Christian-Baileys have joined us, plus the McRitchies from Fletcher Christian, there can be anything upwards of 16 of us. And now Sarah and Emily are catching up with Anna and Amy, their cousins on the other side of the family, it has become even more noisy and hectic!

But we would not have it any other way!!!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The last set of pages from the Fabric Book Round Robin are due to be posted home to their owner Chriss in Newcastle in England. I have put the finishing touches to my contribution, and it will be with a great deal of sadness that I will say goodbye to them, and to this wonderful experience of sharing a project with 7 other fabric and mixed media artists. I only know these ladies "on-line", although I did meet with one, Diana from Wellington, many years ago.

Chriss's theme was "Trees", which was an easy and broad enough topic...however, there were a lot of choices to make, plus the challenge of producing something a little different from the other 7 who had already worked on the book.

For the first page I had the idea of making an image of a row of tree trunks, using piecing, with some texture from some appliqued yarns. The images of branches in between the trunks are from an Op shop find...a blouse with sepia photographic images of trees all over it!

Forgive me that I still have my tacking stitches showing. You may be surprised to know that I rarely do any tacking, preferring to "wing"it. But being someone else's work probably made me take a little more care. The page turned out to have a real "Australian bush" flavour, which I had not really intended. The hand-dyed fabric (done by me many moons ago) in the border has added to this effect. However, I am sure Chriss will enjoy the "downunder" feel of the page.

The second page is far more my style and genre, with a needlefelted tree, using silk fibres and other yarns, and embellished with beads.

My scanner has produced some refractions in the background, which are not really there. However, I did produce it by feeding some silk through my printer for an image of some Norfolk bush. As the silk had not been pre-treated, only the faintest image appeared, and it gives it a delightfully misty and hazy effect. Yet another happy accident! I used a fresher green (another of my hand-dyes) for the border, more like the lovely clear greens of a Norfolk Island spring!!

I said I was really sorry this project is coming to an end. But I can at least look forward to receiving my own "Tea Parties" book back in the next few weeks. Then I can really ooh and aah and show it off.

The group is planning another project for next year, which promises to be even more challenging.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I came across a small bag of natural coloured wool when I was going through some things the other day. I might add that I have enough "stuff" to be able to make frequent discoveries of things I have not seen for years and I had forgotten I had.

Anyway, this wool really reminded me of the coat on my cat Oliver, who is a Si-rex. These cats are a cross between Siamese, and Cornish Rex, which is a breed that has a curly coat.
So I decided this would be a good project for my new needlefelting machine, and once I got myself organised, it only took me a few minutes to create a small version of Oliver. Mind you, I broke 2 needles in the process, but next time I will tackle it differently, and hopefully avoid that problem.
My little model of the cat just begged to be put into a setting, so I decided to make a postcard picture. I had three attempts at creating a background, but finally came up with one I am happy with. The other two will be kept for future projects.

The Art, Mixed Media and Textile world has been playing with, and exchanging postcards for a year or two now. They are an ideal size for playing with and exploring different techniques and ideas. And the opportunity to exchange them with other artists provides a challenge to explore new ideas and skills, the chance to learn from others, encouraging feedback, and most importantly builds friendships right across the globe.
To date, I have resisted becoming a part of any organised postcard exchanges. It has been something on my "to do" list, but a growing distaste for "deadlines" has deterred me.

However, I know where this one will end up. There is a lovely lady who has been going through a tough time lately. I know she is a great cat lover, like me, so I am hoping that this little thought and message from me and Oliver will brighten her day when the postie delivers it.

Friday, September 14, 2007


While walking though the bush up in Vanua Lava, the boys could hear a "slap-slapping" sound, and came across a group of women in the distance doing their laundry in the stream. This, of course, is the way that laundry and other ablutions have been carried on for centuries in our world.
Seeing this picture reminded me of how much change and living history you and I have experienced in our own lifetimes when it comes to domestic chores.
When I was a child in England, there was no such thing as a laundry. In fact, from what I see on UK TV, it is still uncommon for a house to have a room dedicated to washing, and most seem to have a washer/dryer as part of the kitchen set up.
In my childhood, washing was mostly done in a copper, which may be in the kitchen or scullery, or perhaps in an outhouse if you were lucky enough to have one. There was also a concrete tub with a "Mangle" (wringer) attached. It would have been backbreaking work lifting heavy wet garments and linen in and out of the tubs and copper with a stick. In those days sheets were made of very heavy cotton or linen, which probably necessary in view of all the poking and boiling they were subjected to!! And it is little wonder that a whole day needed to be devoted to the weekly washing. I believe it was usually a Monday, because there would be cold meat for tea, left over from the Weekend Roast!
When it came to washing the woollen blankets, our Mum had a great labour saving device - us kids! The blankets would be placed in the bathtub, with plenty of Lux flakes, and it was our job to tramp up and down on them!
Our first washing machine was purchased when we lived in the flat at Kensington, Sydney, where we shared an outside laundry with the people upstairs. As my mother worked, Friday night was laundry night. Those earlier electric machines were styled very much like the old coppers, and for a while the mangle was still a separate piece of equipment, still operated laboriously by hand. The old tubs were still used for rinsing, as it was easier than refilling and emptying the machine.
When I first arrived on Norfolk Island, I lived in a place with no laundry facilities, and washing was done on my knees in a tin tub on the back lawn on Saturday mornings. I heated the water in the bathroom, using one of those wonderful old puffing chip heaters, and it was bucketed out to the yard.
When electricity generation gradually started to spread over Norfolk Island in the late sixties, and they started to import washing machines, I believe the old coppers were rapidly discarded, and you would be hard pressed to find one nowadays.
The arrival of "Twin Tubs", with their separate bowl for spinning, represented an enormous step of progress, and saving of energy putting things through the wringer. Nevertheless, you still needed to be on standby, to supervise filling the machine, and to switch the clothes from one bowl to the other for the spinning and rinsing. We had a twin tub early in our marriage, and with three children under two and a half, my attention was often distracted. On more than one occasion, I set the machine to fill, and forgot about it until the water started pouring down the stairs!
How well I recall our very first automatic machine! A visiting friend and I actually stood in front of it watching it go through all its motions from start to finish!
Bernie recalls his mother had a hand-operated washing machine when he was a child. I seem to recall her saying she had sent away for it using a generous sum of money they were given as a wedding present. Evidently it was a metal tub with an external handle. This handle was pushed to and fro, and the clothes in the machine would be tossed between two washboards.
We still have a set of three concrete tubs in the "old laundry" in the shed out the back, and I find them enormously useful for soaking things, washing garden pots, filling buckets etc. Over at Devon Cottage, there is a pair of old concrete tubs which are filled with soil, and which have been marvellous for striking cuttings!
There are "new generations" of washing machines soon to come on the market which use very innovative technologies, mainly aimed at cutting down on water usage. It is hard to imagine a machine that involves less labour than modern automatics, unless it incorporates a robot that goes around and picks up the dirty clothes from the floor or laundry basket.
Meanwhile, here is a picture of pot scrubbing Vanuatu style! The boys say it is very effective, and the sand leaves them gleaming! And there is the added bonus of it being a communal activity, an opportunity for the women to get together for a gossip!
Washing up that is another story!

Thursday, September 06, 2007


You do not travel far through the islands of the Pacific without becoming acquainted with Kava. Vanuatu is no different; in fact, it is often called the home of Kava. As in other Pacific islands, it is used both socially and ceremonially, and is intrinsically part of the culture.

There has been a lot of debate about Kava recently, resulting in a ban on its importation in Australia, where it was introduced into Aboriginal communities in the 1980's to counteract the harmful and addictive effects of alcohol. It is claimed that the Kava is now being abused, with undesirable physical, social and financial effects. Many disagree.It is a complex issue, and the Pacific peoples living in Australia have been disadvantaged by the ban.

Kava Bar in Sola, Vanua Lava

Kava is prepared from the roots of a type of pepper plant. It can be prepared and consumed fresh by grinding the roots and mixing with water. A dried form is available. It is NOT a fermented beverage like alcohol, and strictly speaking is not a narcotic. It is more correctly termed a food and an analgesic. It is actually used medicinally in many places. Kava produces a feeling of well-being and relaxation, and promotes goodwill and social cohesion in a group. It is not conducive to aggression and violence.

This Kava Bar is run by Lilian, Jimmy's mother

Jimmy works on his grandfather Norman's Kava plantation. This involves an hour or two's walk to where the plants are cultivated. The whole plant is harvested because the roots are used. New plants are grown from cuttings, which strike easily in the tropical climate. Each afternoon, Kava is prepared fresh from the day's harvest, and sold in various Kava Bars along the street. Everyone gathers in these bars for an hour or two each afternoon, before dinner. The atmosphere in the bars is quiet and low key, and it is a real "chilling out" time before dinner.

Jimmy's Kava plantation. The soil is so friable, little more than a digging stick is needed.

New plants are grown from cuttings. They are 2 - 4 years old before harvesting.

Tom, Bernie and Charles were welcomed to Sola by 'the Diocese' with a formal Kava ceremony.

Later, they had "takeaways" which they drank in their wineglasses in Lilian's dining area.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Recently Charles decided to pay another visit to Vanua Lava, which is an island in the Banks and Torres at the far north of Vanuatu. You may remember from previous posts that this is where a number of Norfolkers constructed a cyclone-proof church/school about 13-14 years ago, funded by the Norfolk community. It is the area where the main foundation work of the Melanesian Mission began in the islands 150 years ago. Here, the memory of the First Bishop of Melanesia, John Coleridge Patteson is still held in great reverence There is also a strong feeling of affection for Norfolk Island and its people, not only because of the historical links through the Mission, but because of the practical assistance that has been rendered in recent years.

The main purpose of this visit was to renew friendships, particularly with Jimmy, who spent 6 months on Norfolk a couple of years ago. Charles also wanted to check on the arival of the shipment of carpentry hand tools which he had organised to be sent to the Fysher Young Training College in Port Patteson.

This visit, Charles invited Bernie, and also our friend Tom Lloyd to go with him, and they readily agreed, although they were a little anxious about coping with the very different culture, climate and foods. As it turned out, they had a wonderfully memorable time, and the people there were incredibly hospitable and generous with the few material resources they have in this very remote area. Bernie says that they are true Christian people, living out the Christian principles first taught to them in the 19th century, in a simple and genuine way.

The best way of showing the visit is through pictures

Enjoying a meal in the Markets in Vila en route. Sola and Vanua Lava are a further two hours of flying, with stops in Santo and Gaua Arriving at Sola Airport. The trip into the village involves a walk, and removing shoes in order to cross through a small stream

With Stanley Womak, the Diocesan Secretary for the Diocese of Banks and Torres. Freshly picked coconuts provide juice for refreshment.

The boys stayed in the bungalows at Lilian's guesthouse. Lilian is Jimmy's mother. For $20 per day, they had all meals, and their laundry done!

The shower and toilet block. The plumbing was a bit unreliable, but there was always a big bowl of water for the times when the toilet did not flush and the shower was not working!

Tom and Charles' bungalow - they left Bernie to snore in peace in his own. Believe it or not, Jimmy worked these boards using just a chainsaw, sanding them by hand.

Bernie's room, in a different building style.

Jimmy's younger brother Patteson (named after the Bishop) sleeps here, beside the beach!

I will show some more pictures in the next posting!

Related Posts with Thumbnails