Saturday, August 29, 2009


Last week, on August 19th, we celebrated 30 years of being granted self-government on Norfolk Island. I should say "re-granted" because, in fact, this community governed itself for 107 years after the Mutiny on the Bounty and the settlement on Pitcairn, only to lose their rights in 1896.

But we do not give up easily, and here was an occasion worth making the most of! We have a lot to "show off", both past and present, and that is just what we were doing in Rawson Hall last Thursday afternoon.

It was actually a day late. The day before, the Governor -General was to arrive to add her presence to a very special occasion. But the weather was so wild, her Airforce plane was unable to land, and after three frightening attempts, they turned back for Canberra.

The Pitcairn/Norfolk story was narrated, and acted out with song and dance. There was a recognition of the Polynesian heritage, as well as the cultural influences that have become important to us since.

Bounty hats featured prominently!

A proud group of Norfolkers, in traditional Bounty dress, sat and sang some of our unique Norfolk songs.

I forgot my camera, but Barbara sent me through these pictures. I wish I could show you the five pairs of children, of varying ages, doing the "Bounty Waltz" - it was so beautiful and carried out with great dignity.

As you can see, the hall was decorated beautifully. We are sorry that Their Excellencies missed out on what was a very moving occasion, one which made you feel just so proud to be a part of this Norfolk Island community.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


A few years ago, this was one of the world's most endangered plants. It is a rare and ancient hibiscus, growing only in two or three clumps on uninhabited Phillip Island, just to the south of Norfolk Island. Over the decades it had suffered the predations of rabbits, pigs and goats, which had been placed on Phillip Island for food and sport in the Penal settlement times.

Today we are well underway in removing this beautiful plant from the endangered list. Many of us have specimens growing in our gardens. The Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney actually has a hedge of it, and it can sometimes be purchased in nurseries.

The proper name for the Phillip Island Hibiscus is "Hibiscus Insularis." It is not a large bush, and is not "showy" like the Hawaiian hibiscus. Most specimens you see have very small leaves. These are actually immature leaves, and are said to remain like this for around twenty years, when the plant finally produces its mature leaves. I have read that the bush rarely flowers before that time. However, our bushes are nothing like that age, and the smaller one produced its first flowers last year. The larger one has just presented us with its first bloom!

This picture shows some buds which will open in the next day or two.

When the flowers first open, they are a beautiful creamy yellow/green.

By the next day they have become a delicate pink.

Finally they change to a red wine colour before they shrivel.

They do not produce masses of blooms, and only flower at a certain time of year - but they are well worth waiting for!

Sunday, August 09, 2009


Now I fell in love with Crazy patchwork as a small child. We had a great aunt, living in a little village near Canterbury, who was both thrifty and creative - what a wonderful combination! One of her favoured activities was creating crazy patched cushions for family members. She used a variety of scraps, including the dressmaker's samples from the lady for whom she had worked as a maid. These were embellished with basic feather and herringbone stitches. I thought they were wonderful.

I did not start exploring crazy patchwork for myself until about 20 years ago. The biggest obstacle to overcome was the necessity to learn some basic embroidery, and night after night I would practise on "samplers", until I felt I was good enough to decorate a seam or two.

I did not look back, although the embroidery thing is still only a "means to an end" for me! It is the opportunity to collect and "play" with bits and pieces, and make a creative decision each step of the way until the piece finally looks "just right" that attracts me to the medium. For years I had wanted to make things that looked more "organic", and ibn recent times crazy patchwork, for me, has become a starting point for even more crative and personal textile art and mixed media work.

I have realised over the years that although many crafters admire crazy work, they feel intimidated by it, because there is no pattern or guidelines to follow. There is an old saying among Crazy patchworkers that there is only one rule - and that is that there are "No Rules" (with the possible exception of needing to enjoy it!)

I was really delighted, therefore, when one of our local group of patchworkers asked if I would come and start them of on some Crazy work.

I decided that it would need to be a small project, easily achievable. So I prepared some bases of either hearts or small Christmas stockings.

About 16 girls turned up to try their hand, and we had a busy afternoon mastering the basics of the "sew and flip" method, and learning to "audition" fabrics and arrangements for the best effect.
Auditioning fabrics and embellishments. Crazy work does not have to be "random."

One of the main messages I tried to get over was that there is no right or wrong, and that mistakes are just opportunities to try something you had not planned for! I also stressed that many traditional quilters need to discover a new and different mindset when working on Crazy patchwork, while still using their basic needlework skills and their sense of colour and design.
Raewyn, who has some experience with crazy work and embroidery, tackled a more ambitious teacosy front.These girls preferred to lay their patches down by hand.Getting ideas and inspirations from finished pieces brought along for display It took great concentration at first.But that did not mean it wasn't fun!
Everyone got on really well - and all the efforts turned out surprisingly different, bearing the stamp of their maker! And that is how it ought to be. When Crazy Patchwork first found popularity in the late 1800's, it was not so much about economy and using up scraps - it was an opportunity for women (and a few men) to express themselves and celebrate their own creativity!

Next time, we are going to tackle some embellishing techniques, including some embroidery stitches.

I know I always seem to be writing about birthday gatherings. For one thing you can't beat a good Norfolk party. But I am also conscious of those Norfolkers who live away from here, who "tune in" to this blog to see what has been going on. I know lots of them enjoy seeing some of the old Norfolk faces, even if it makes them feel a bit homesick!
Last week Vonnie had a "significant" birthday. She told me "It is just another day", which is true, and when you get to our age, they are all "big" numbers. But that doesn't stop us having fun!!

The party was a potluck supper in Don's Shed. Actually it is looking less like a shed each time I go there. It is hard to believe that this lovely hall, with that great big stage, used to be an aluminium joinery workshop.

Anyway, the first important task for the evening was to fit Vonnie out with her gown and crown.

I did not get a picture of the food, but "potluck" is a very tame description of what you eat at a typical Norfolk gathering. Most of the food was hot, ideal for a winter's night.
When we had all had more than enough to eat, it was time to light the candles on the two cakes - a big chocolate mudcake, and a croquembouche.
We all joined in singing happy birthday, and wishing this lovely lady all the best.

Typically, all the kids gathered round when it came time to cut up the cakes!

When the music started, Roy got Vonnie up for a dance.

Archie was on the piano, Wiggy on his T-chest bass, the Nobbs boys on their guitars and ukeleles, and Roy on his harmonica.

Soon there were 8 or 9 Norfolk musicians up on that stage, including Vonnie herself on her spoons.
And not a sheet of music between them!


Sunday, August 02, 2009


Our Norfolk Pine is famed throughout the world.

I have learned over the years, however, that just because someone has heard of the Norfolk Island Pine does not mean that they are familiar with Norfolk Island, or, indeed, that they even know it exists.

About 20 years ago I was at a Quilt Symposium in Armidale, where there were tutors from the United States. One lady, in a lecture/slide presentation, showed us a quilt she had made based on the Norfolk Island Pine. When someone in the audience pointed out that there was someone present who came from Norfolk Island, this lecturer was quite taken back and puzzled, because she had never heard of such a place!

I have also seen in a quilt magazine a picture of a quilt titled "The Norfolk Island Pines of Maui." It is true that they do grow Norfolk Pines in Maui, but they are rather spindly specimens. They bear little resemblance to our magnificent specimens, because this is, indeed, their home. They are endemic to this island. They have cousins in other islands, and the famous Wollomi Pine, that prehistoric that was discovered in recent years in a ravine in New South Wales, is also a fairly close relative.

The Norfolk Island Pine is a long-lived tree, particularly when it is surrounded by other pines. But from time to time, they do have to come down, because they have reached the end of their life cycle,. In this day and age, they would be dangerous if they were allowed to topple naturally, particularly close to roads and buildings.

One thing that affects them is "root rot." This is a naturally occurring fungal condition, which may have been exacerbated by human activity. It was root rot that had taken its toll on the enormous pine up the driveway, just over the fence in our neighbours' front paddock.

It was sad to see it go. Howard the miller did his usual skilled job in bringing it down safely, with as little damage as possible to surrounding trees.

The logs were quickly sawn, and will provide some useful timber.

It was amazing how much new light came in to both our place and the Murrays.

The front end loader soon got busy moving the massive logs.

Then they were off to the mill at Cascade.

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