Sunday, November 25, 2007

I promised both you and myself that this blog would never be a soapbox, particularly a political one. That was why I ran my AngelsandEagles blog during the course of last year.
Nevertheless, I enjoy following the political scene. My youngest son has accused me of approaching politics like someone following a favourite football team, and although that is only partly true, I do love the cut and thrust of Parliamentary Question Time, watching the tackles, the scrums, the dodging and the point scoring. It can be highly entertaining.
And I will also confess to having become something of a media 'junkie' during the Election campaign. That is in spite of the fact that, being a British citizen, I am not even eligible to vote. Because they are Australian citizens, the Bernie and boys are eligible, but on Norfolk Island, it actually is not compulsory to participate in the Australian electoral process, and only a minority of our people choose to do so.
Having sat up until late last night following the vote-counting, and the eventual announcement of a change of government, I feel I need to place on record my extreme admiration for John Howard for his forthright courage and graciousness with which he conceded defeat. A change in government raises many questions and even uncertainties for people, and whatever your level of optimism and confidence, the challenges and changes of a new regime raise questions about how your own life and community will be affected.
But what an enormous life-changing time for someone who has been right up there in the public eye and in public life for so long, with such determination and commitment, as John Howard. I am sure we all wish him and his family well.
Meanwhile, I thought it was timely to post this photo, taken about five years ago. The photo shows Bernie and myself, and three of our boys. I am sure you will recognise the man in the middle.

Monday, November 19, 2007


I love old silver.

Not merely because it is shiny.

And not because it is "posh."

It is because it is enduring enough to get handed down from generation to generation.

And it gets to tell a story.

We have a couple of big drawers full of silver cutlery at home. Quite a bit of it has been "handed down". Some of it was given as wedding presents in the days when silver was something you were proud to have in your sideboard, and bring out for visitors and special occasions. We have a few trophy pieces, won mainly for horses or cattle in the local Show.But I must tell you that a lot of it has been bought at Garage Sales and Trash and Treasure stalls, discarded by people who thought it no longer had a part in their lives.
In the Fabric Book Round Robin that I recently took part in, Diana included a beautiful old butter knife on my page. Now Diana has only met me once briefly some years ago. How did she know that this would mean so much to me?

Around the time that my Tea Party book came home to me, I lost a favourite old silver sugar spoon. I had used it continuously for 40 years! I suspect it got thrown out with the garbage after a party, but I do hold on to a faint hope that it will still turn up in some funny place. It was like an old friend.

Meanwhile, I thought I would show you some other special pieces.

This spoon belonged to my father's parents, who spent time in Ireland later in their lives. The end part carries the initials DRC. which stands for "Dublin Rifle Club." Notice the profile of the rifle on the stem.

These two lovely spoons came from my mother's family. I remember using them as a child, and I think they were given to us by my great-aunt Sally. I seem to recall being told that they had come from some Royal household, but that is a story I will probably never be able to follow up or verify.

These fish servers (below)were acquired by Bernie over 40 years ago. At the time he worked for Qantas. The servers had been used on a Royal Flight to serve the Queen and Prince Phillip. Later, pieces used on the flight were offered (at a price) to Qantas Staff members.

This set of teaspoons (above). six in all, was given to us as a wedding present by Sally Kadesh, an English lady who lived here on Norfolk Island at the time. She had a magnificent set of antiques, including furniture that was hundreds of years old. These unusual spoons, with the upside-down bowl, are a reproduction of spoons that were used in Roman times! They were evidently used to prise open shellfish, a delicacy that probably kept the Romans in Britain longer than they may have stayed otherwise!!!

This "pincushion" shoe was bought while we were holidaying with Miriam. In the towns around where Miriam lives, there are some beautiful antique stores, and they have often provided the perfect "holiday souvenir".

When I went to get this shoe to photograph it, I had quite a search. It had apparently been placed up high by someone wanting to put it out of the way of "little fingers" playing with the hat pins.

Finally, I will show you the sugar "scuttle" that belonged to Bernie's mother. It was a wedding present in 1927. I just love it.

In fact, I love all our silver, and we use some of it every day. Yes, it does sometimes need polishing, but that task is a pleasure. It is lovely to sit and run your fingers over it, and just wonder what stories the pieces could tell you, if only they could speak!

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Phillip Island is an offshore island, about 5 miles or 8 kms from Norfolk Island. There was a time when it was as green and wooded as Norfolk Island itself, but in the days of the Penal Settlement, goats, pigs and rabbits were released there to provide both sport and food for the colony, particularly the officers. The process of environmental degradation that this set in train meant that the island eventually could not sustain the pigs and goats. However, the rabbits remained, and developed some very unique characteristics through more than a century of inbreeding, including the ability to climb the stunted and lopsided trees.

The rabbits were finally eradicated only two decades ago. Some of the last ones, living in inaccessible places, presented quite a challenge. I am told that myxomatosis-infested fleas were actually attached to arrows and short down the sides of the cliffs! By that time, the island had become something of a desert, with just a little shrubby and stunted vegetation struggling to maintain a roothold in the soft red, purple and gold dirt. One cannot deny that the appearance of this island from the "mainland" of Norfolk was quite beautiful, especially with the sun shining on it, or when it was ringed by cloud.

Nevertheless, it was an environmental disaster, and the process of recovery needed to be set in motion. Before any large scale replanting could take place, earthworks needed to be carried out to prevent further erosion of soil from the gullies.

Whenever there was a helicopter "in town", we took advantage of the opportunity to carry equipment and materials to parts of the island. Otherwise everything needed to be transported by boat and up the steep rock climb to reach the main part of the island.

As well as replanting of native vegetation, there has been a good deal of natural regeneration, and at times, the formerly Uluru-style island actually has a glow of green.
There is good recovery of vegetation in the valleys, through re-planting and natural re-generation

It was most exciting when a native Abutilon plant, thought to be long extinct, was found still growing in a remote corner. This plant has now been propagated and grows in many Norfolk gardens. Another plant native to the island, the Phillip Island Hibiscus, is propagated in many mainland nurseries.

Phillip Island remains a special bird sanctuary. Sadly the Phillip Island Parrot is long-extinct, but it is a nesting place for many migratory sea birds. There is also a Skink and a Gecko, both extinct on the main island of Norfolk.

A gannet with her chick, which is fully-grown but still has its downy feathers
Today, Phillip Island is only visited by the more adventurous among us. It is a good fishing spot, and, as I mentioned in my last posting, a place to get away from it all. The more intrepid eco-tourist is able to book a guided tour on the island, and my son sometimes fills this role for David Biggs, who runs a charter boat and fishing service. Charles is very familiar with the island from his days working with Parks and Wildlife. in the recovery program.
In the days of the penal settlement, it was a popular place to "hide out" for those who were able to find a boat and escape. There is no safe anchorage there, and the access on to the main part of the island is difficult. Once there, walking is tiring, as your feet sink into the dry sandy soil. There is little shade from the sun, although that situation is changing as the flora recovers.

Looking back to Norfolk Island at sunset

One cannot help wondering if the day will ever come when Phillip Island has buildings, and people living on it. Will it become the ultimate eco-tourist destination, or perhaps a place where people actually live, a sort of outpost for Norfolk Island? If it had not been for the pigs and goats and rabbits, would there be people living there today, perhaps the more wealthy who enjoyed their "get away from it all way of life, and who could afford boats to come and pick up supplies regularly from the mainland .

There are many people on Norfolk Island who have never even visited this little island, so near yet so far away. They are content to watch it from Kingston, and the beach at Emily Bay, and just admire its strange and stark beauty.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Do you remember those old advertisements for the ferry trip to Manly ? The slogan was "Seven miles from Sydney and a thousand miles from Care!"

Well, Norfolk Island is 1000 miles from Sydney, and although we are pretty laid back and enjoy a wonderful way of life, we do sometimes create our own little rat race here.

But who would want to escape it by travelling 1000 miles back to the bigger rat race in Sydney? That is why some of the locals often choose to hop in a boat, and sail across to our own little offshore Phillip Island, just 7-8 km to the south, about 20-30 minutes journey depending on the seas.

Each year about this time, John and some of his mates spend a few days over there. It is "chill out" time, perhaps a touch of male bonding? Whatever, they have a great time. And the younger boys get to spend a bit of quality time with Dad, too. What better opportunity to pass on those special skills and and knowledge that are a part of their island heritage!!

There are no luxury hotels or apartments there. Just a basic fisherman's hut. But they do not exactly rough it. They are equipped with a generator, frig and stove and water tank, and enough furnishings to make it all pretty comfortable.

"Bunting" feels very relaxed

While they are there, they fish, drink, collect hi-his (periwinkles), drink, gather whalebird eggs, drink, and explore the island, before returning to the hut for a drink. But they do not just drink - they "cook up big", enjoying not just the seafood, but big roast dinners and even sweet pies. There are some pretty good cooks among the boys!

The Fishermen's hut from above

At this time of year, it is open season for the Whalebird eggs. These small speckly eggs, with their fishy taste, are a traditional delicacy for the Norfolk Islanders. You can eat them boiled, but many people freeze the egg mixture to make omelettes throughout the year. Bucketfuls are brought back in the boats to share out among friends and relatives. If the eggs are collected, the birds will lay another, but care is taken to monitor the breeding numbers, so they do not become endangered. The open season only lasts a month.

Looking for whale bird eggs.

The hi-his (periwinkles) are gathered off the rocks, and are just brought to the boil in salty water, It is a fairly laborious process picking out enough for a feed, using a needle or pin. But it is well worth the effort. The flavour reminds me of the "winkles" that we used to gather on the beaches in England. In the part of England that I came from, the coast was subject to strong tidal surges, such as they are experiencing at the present time. Many of the beaches have dividing timber fences, to prevent the loss of too much sand and pebble. The "winkles" would collect on these fences, and we would gather them in our rubber bathing caps. At the popular "holiday" beaches, enterprising traders would gather them, pick them out of the shells, and sell them by the saucerful, with salt and vinegar!

Brandt enjoys his very first Phillip Island escape'

Norfolkers are also very fond of "hi-hi pie." Making these is a real labour of love, because it takes ages to pick out enough from the shells. However, you do make them go further by putting them in a thick white sauce, with a little vinegar added, before enclosing them in the pastry. YUM!!!!

Now we have mobile phones, there is probably less of a feeling of "getting away from it all" for the boys out on Phillip. Nevertheless, We womenfolk cannot help envying them a little as they enjoy their "escape" from the daily routine and "cares" of work and home.
In the next posting, I will show you some more pictures of Phillip Island, and tell you how it came to look so bare and rugged.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


You will rarely find us at a Racetrack, or at the TAB, but there is no doubt that horses and horseracing have played a reasonably significant part in our family's lives over the years.

Growing up on Norfolk Island, Bernie probably came into much closer contact with horses than most people of his generation on the mainland. Not only were they an important way of getting around, but Agricultural Shows, Gymkhanas and the like installed an appreciation of a well-bred and well trained horse. Bernie actually became a fine rider, with what they call a "good seat", something that our daughter Miriam inherited. It may be that the boys did too, but in their teenage years, motorbikes began to present more instant gratification!!
It was when Miriam came home to Norfolk back in December1992/January 93, to celebrate her 21st birthday that she caught Trevor's eye. Trevor, a Trainer and ex-hurdle jockey, had been invited as a guest of the R.S.L. Race Club to add some interest to the event. Now our New Years' Day Races used to be held on our Golf Course, and Miriam loved to take part, as did Bernie in earlier days. We had a beautiful ex-racehorse from New Zealand that Miriam loved to ride.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, they fell head over heels, helped no doubt by the mutual interest in horses, and Miriam soon moved off to New Zealand. Eventually Miriam and Trevor, who is nicknamed "Gripper" established their own breaking in and pre-training business on their property that they called "Devon Lodge".

Down in Matamata where they live, you are right in the heart of the New Zealand Racing scene. When we were visiting them about five years ago, we happened to be passing the Town Hall in their neighbouring town of Cambridge, when we saw that they were about to hold a Civic Reception for Sheila Laxon, whose Horse Ethereal won both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups that year. So we went in.

What a photo opportunity! Both Bernie and Emily took the opportunity to pose with Sheila - and the famous mugs!!!I should point out that the larger and more ostentatious of the cups is actually the Caulfield Cup.

How many little girls can actually boast that they have handled the famous cups?

Miriam and Trevor("Gripper") are no longer together, and the business has been sold. Trevor, who used to work with the starting barriers for the race meetings in that part of New Zealand, now acts as official starter for all the Auckland area Race meetings. He and Miriam still hold a joint share in a very successful horse currently in Lee Freedman's Stables in Melbourne.

This particular horse was born on their place, and was a "Dummy Foal", which means that he had a whole range of physical and neurological problems, probably caused by lack of oxygen during birth. He had to be handfed, and his walking was so wonky that he was nicknamed "Gripper" - after Trevor, whose car accident had left him somewhat wonky and wobbly on his feet.

Their hard work and perseverance with him certainly paid off! This same horse will be racing tomorrow,8th November, in the Spring Racing Carnival, just one of a series of big races where he has had a good deal of success. His racing name is "Itstheone."

Now for my part, I only observed horses from a safe distance (still do) especially since the time I was holidaying on a farm in my late teen. They sat me on a horse, told me how to make it go, but unfortunately I did not wait around to find out how to make it stop. All I can say is I am glad this horse did not want to leap fences!

However, I grew up in Todman Avenue, Kensington, which was not far from the Randwick Race Course. In the streets around us there were several stables. It was a common sight in the late afternoons to see the apprentices leading groups of horses around the block for gentle walking exercise. My girlfriend and I fell in love with one particular young apprentice jockey called Norman- well, he may have been just a stablehand - and looked out for him each afternoon.

The lady in the flat upstairs ran an SP bookie shop, and each Saturday afternoon, there would be trails of people going up and down the back stairs with money and slips of paper in their hands, with all the "business" being done through the servery used by the milkman and baker. It was years before I found out what was going on, because my parents would not discuss it with me. After all, it was highly illegal! A couple of doors along there was a man living who was described as a "professional Punter". His bets were no doubt with bigger players, and there were always juicy rumours about his latest winnings or losses!

My primary school was right over the road from one of the sets of gates into Randwick Racecourse. On "Ladies"Days"- usually a Wednesday afternoon - we loved to look out of the classroom window at the ladies in their glamorous outfits.

I never went into that racecourse. But some weekends, Mum and Dad would pack a picnic, and we would go up onto a hill which actually overlooked the course from a distance. We would listen to the race commentaries on Dad's new transistor radio, and place penny bets among ourselves while we watched the races from a distance.

I have been to a number of race meetings in New Zealand in more recent years, as well as horse sales and other activities associated with the racing industry. I can well understand how the atmosphere and camaraderie becomes a part of one's life. Meanwhile I was very happy to win the princely sum of $8 yesterday, when I drew Mahler in a sweep. He ran third.

Friday, November 02, 2007


Our local island pre-school and playcentre was founded over 35 years ago, and was an initiative of the "Wives and Mothers' Club." Initially held in community halls, the playcentre eventually moved into its own premises, known as "Banyan Park". This was built 30 years ago, after years of fundraising by these busy and enterprising Mums, who wished to provide a valuable learning and socialising experience for their pre-schoolers.

Today Banyan Park continues to thrive, with very high standards, and excellent staff. Although they charge a modest fee, a new generation of Mums (and Dads) still continue to work hard to raise the funds to maintain the centre and its infrastructure, and provide equipment. Tina is on the Committeee, and was largely responsible for the organisation of Wednesday's Halloween Bazaar.

The idea was that you handed over a small fee, grabbed a table, and set up your own stall, selling whatever you wanted. Most people opted to take the opportunity to clear out cupboards and have mini-Jumble sales. There was a wealth of good secondhand baby equipment and clothes.

Tina and I joined forces to sell some crafty items. Tina had some mini-paintings, handpainted Kindy aprons, and lovely flower clips, while I made a special effort to finish off some handmade Christmas stockings that I have had "on the go" for some time.

There was a raffle and a sausage sizzle to add to the fundraising, and Louise provided $1 a minute massages. She was certainly kept busy!

Our local radio station, which really deserves the title of Community Radio, came down to the hall and broadcast from there for the three hours the Bazaar was on, providing lively music, and generating enthusiasm by interviewing stallholders and kids.
George and Brent from VL2NI

At 6:30 it was time for the Halloween parade, and all those little ones - and a few bigger ones too -who had come in costume lined up on the stage.
Everyone earned a prize for joining in the fun!

It was a great event, and a good start to the Trick-or-treating that proceeded round the island for the rest of the evening!!

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