Saturday, 4 August 2007

C is for .... and D is for

carton - but that's just a box which is" B is for box" - what a relief! That's C done! Just kidding.

C is for - what? Colour! Colour is an essential part of our lives - imagine a grey world with only shades of black and white - and yet, when I look at black and white photos, I'm blown away by the clarity of perception that they induce - have a look at Ree's blogs and scroll back through until you find her black and white photos - in one post she compares the same photo in colour and B&W. Somehow the essence of the face in black and white seems to come through in a depth not present in the colour photos - if that makes sense. I fell in love with B&W photos years ago when my youngest daughter was in a B&W photography phase - she is talented with her photography and does take beautiful photos.

Colour is also a thing that I'm wrestling with for our new place. The floors and paint coloours are set in stone by the builder, but I'm having the lounge recovered and have to get window coverings. But what colours to choose? The last time I had to choose colours I used the local interior designer and loved the final result so he is organising things again. But it seems to take forever to reach agreement! He is very keen to use a neutral palette with some hideous patterned highlights, but I love really bright colours - Noro yarn, Indian numdah rug colours. I have told him this and he takes NO NOTICE. He is keen to give us a "smart new look" - but I'm a slobby casual person! Yet I know that eventually I'll do what he wants and I'll be pleased with it. That's why I use him, as I'm no good with imagining things from a small swatch, nor am I good at putting colours together. My friend the ID just smiles and says "trust me" - just what the crocodile said when I smiled at it!

D is for dogs. We don't have a dog at present, but they have been faithful companions all my life. When I was child I had a black and white cocker spaniel called "Ben" (Chifley) and my brother had a golden cocker called "Doc" (Evatt). Later we had another cocker called "Timmy", then a pair of puppies whose mother was a pregnant stray that my parents took in. The twins were called "Boof" and "Tweedle". Later, after I'd left home my parents had an Irish wolfhound called "Gough" - no prizes for guessing our political persuasion! (Ben, Doc and Gough are all the names of Labor politicians - similar to the Democrats). Gough met with a nasty end, a bit like his namesake, and later my parents had another refugee - an English Border Collie, called Margo, that we were all terrified of - she'd been maltreated as a puppy and was very protective of Mum and Dad - she'd run snarling to the gate, barking and generally bluffing us all. I wouldn't go in until Dad came and called her off. Once inside, it was alright.

My own children had first a severely inbred Maltese Terrier - given to my first child on her first birthday - without consultation, by my father. This dog had the peculiar appellation of "Seaswirl Dodo Boy", but we called him "Smokey". Smokey nearly drove me to the brink of desperation - when he wasn't mounting my little crawling babe, he was having fits of diarrhoea all over the house - apparently a problem with some of these dogs. Charming with a little baby. Sadly, but fortunately, the wretched little thing kept escaping, and was run over by one of the neighbours, who was very upset. I tried to look as if I was upset, but I truly was overjoyed, horrible as it sounds. Our next dog was given to our son when he was five - we arrived in the country at the other grandparents' house after a VERY long drive. Grandma, who was waiting out the front, rushed over to the car and said "Pedro, I've got something for you, IF YOUR MOTHER WILL LET YOU HAVE IT" - what was a mother to do when a tiny little black and white fox terrier puppy was produced? Promptly named "Pooch" by it's new proud father, Pooch was a part of our family for many years. After she died, I would hear the jingle of her collar around the house for many months.

Before we lost Pooch, both my parents died. What to do with their animals? Someone took the peacocks and peahens, but that still left the cat and the dog. My brother was clever and got in first - "I'll take Chairman Miaow because I've already got three dogs and that's the limit allowed by the council - you'll have to take Margo". Poor Margo was so distressed after Dad's death that she was quite prepared to love anyone who'd feed her, so we became best friends. I drove back to Sydney from the country with Margo breathing down my neck and drooling in my hair. Once home, we had to let her sleep in our bedroom because she was fretting so much - I think she must have slept on Dad's bed after Mum died. I couldn't even visit the bathroom without the dog - she shadowed me constantly. And because Margo was allowed to go on the carpet (how could I stop her?), Pooch decided that if it was good enough for the intruder, it was good enough for her. SCREAM! That's how we became a doggy smelling household. So, we lived in smelly harmony for many years and replaced the carpet after Margo died. We lost both the dogs quite close together, around the time that the Fleas were leaving (and coming back and leaving etc) home. In the later years of their lives, the dogs would fret very badly if we put them in kennels when we went away, so we had to organise our holidays around a timetable that involved one of the children coming to stay to look after them while we were absent. So we decided not to get another dog until we stop travelling.

Friday, 3 August 2007

All blogged out ..

I guess it's obvious that I'm feeling all blogged out - I had been spending so much time reading and writing blogs and putting on weight with my sedentary lifestyle, that I was fearing that my life was slipping away as I sat at the computer. I think what I'm really feeling is overload with the move-after-40-years coming up. I've been feeling too blah to leave comments on blogs, let alone write one. But today, in a break between packing boxes and carting all my size 14 clothes to the op shop, I was reading some blogs I haven't visited in a while and came across Bella Dia's Encyclopedia of Me Meme. She was talking about "A for Ageing" - not a good thought for a blahed out oldie! So I have decided to join in, a few days late. Please refer to her blog for the details - I'm too blah to go over them! So, as today is 3 August (here) I'll have to do A, B, and C in one go - no doubt my alphabet will be very move oriented, but it may provoke me into some knitting blogging - who knows? who cares? . At least it will keep me in touch - I start to worry when other fairly reliable bloggers don't post for a while . So here goes:

A is for the first letter in my "maiden" name. I was always very self conscious and shy when I was a child. It was absolute purgatory for me to have to stand up in front of the class and read or give an answer. It was sheer hell when the teacher decided to call our names to do that, by reverse alphabetical order (afferbeck lauder in Aussie speak).

B is for boxes. Our downstairs room is FULL of boxes - we can't envisage even using half of them, but we trust that the moving man has done the odd box estimate before.

(At this point I decided to take a photo of the boxes, and it has started to lift me out of the blogged out feeling.) This photo doesn't do justice to the number of boxes in this room - believe me. They are stacked flat behind the two assembled boxes and also behind a lounge that you can't see....

B is also for books - we are getting rid of as much as we can, and the time has come to let go of my childhood favourites. When I was a child we lived in country towns. At Swan Hill (on the Murray River) one of our neighbours was a school teacher and he had a little lending library at the end of his shed - I loved it. I can't remember ever going to the Public Library there, so I assume there wasn't one. Books were very precious, and unlike the kids of today, we only received presents on our birthdays and at Christmas - or when we were very sick - and usually, only one book, at that. I was an early reader and I loved the Enid Blyton books - especially "The Secret Seven" and "The Famous Five" books. I referred above to my self consciousness - when I was six, I was learning Scottish dancing, and we had to do a performance at the local Show - on a stage, with everyone looking. To this day, I am sure that came down with pneumonia because I didn't want to get up in public. I remember feeling guilty about it, even as a six year old. My mother and father hovered over me with worried looks, the doctor came and ordered poultices for my chest - horrible things made up of something gooey and brown paper. It sounds like a Dickens novel!! Because I was so ill, my father came home one day with a great surprise for me - a book! A copy of Gulliver's Travels! I will never forget my disappointment! I was only six, after all. To have a book wasted on something I didn't want to read was a huge tragedy. I could have had a "Famous Five " book!

Back to the subject - so today I photographed the inscriptions in my childhood favourites - as it is the sentimental value of the books that I really want to hang onto. My mother was very keen on signing my books "with special love" to a "special girl", and for years I thought I was adopted! Here we have "Robinson Crusoe", "The Swiss Family Robinson", "What Katy Did Next and What Katy Did at School", "Fifth Form at St. Dominics", "The Father Brown Stories", "The Coral Island" (which I absolutely loved!) and "The Dean's Watch" (which was given to me by my friend, Ingrid, who now lives in Vancouver). Did you notice that "Gulliver's Travels" is absent? Along with "The Water Babies" which I think I received during the same illness. "Little Women and Good Wives" is the only book from my childhood that I've kept. It is falling to pieces, like the others, from having been read and reread so many times. It was given to me by people that we came to know when we lived at The Entrance, a coastal village (at that time) that was popular, even then, with holiday makers. There was no public library at The Entrance. Once a term we would get a box of books from the State Library and we'd all get to take one home. I'd devour mine overnight and I'd then have to wait for days or weeks for other class mates to return theirs. Purgatory again.

We moved to The Entrance when I was 8. It is now a huge, bustling community, but when we lived there, we had tank water, the "night cart" for sewage, and the place was so small that the shopkeepers had two sets of prices - one for the residents, and one for the summer holiday visitors! I used to save the newspapers for pocket money as the greengrocer would buy them for a halfpenny a pound. If we found a soft drink bottle it was celebration time, as we got threepence for returning it to the shop. (Talk of getting old! This is really making me feel ancient!) Those were the days when the grocer had big barrels of flour, sugar etc around the shop. Married women were addressed as "Mrs" so and so. Once a week my mother would visit the grocer's, where she would sit on a chair while she gave her order. The grocer would measure things out on the scales and later that day, he would knock at the back door and place the box of groceries on the kitchen table along with the bill, which was paid in cash. For the children, there was always a small white bag of boiled lollies that the grocer gave to good customers.

It was a special treat when Mum would send me up the street with a shilling, to buy " a shilling's worth of broken biscuits" - biscuits didn't come pre-packaged in those days. There were always large tins of Arnott's biscuits on the shelves which were weighed out on request. Broken biscuits were put in a separate tin to be sold at a cheaper price. My mother used the broken biscuits to make "Hedgehog Cake". I'd carry them home in a brown paper bag with the sides twirled together, in great anticipation of the finished cake.

Grocers didn't carry things like bread, milk and ice-cream at that time. Every day the baker's horse and cart would come around. The bread was carried in large cane baskets covered by white cloths. In school holidays, my mother would ask me to go out and get half a high top loaf for lunch. The baker would break the loaf in two and give me the half to take in. The smell of warm, fresh bread would invariably prove too much for a hungry, growing child and by the time I'd walked down the front path and into the kitchen, I'd have eaten the bit that bulged out and also pulled the fresh bread from the centre of the loaf. No wonder my mother got cranky! I used to love the burnt high top crust with lots of butter. It had the added advantage, that if I ate it, I was increasing my chances of getting curly hair. Sadly, no matter how much crust I ate, my hair remained straight. Damn! I still love crusts, although they don't taste as good as they did then.

Milk was delivered fresh each day by the milkman. My mother would leave a billy with a lid on the front door step each night. Each morning, before the sun was up, the milkman would carry a huge urn of milk down to the step and ladle the milk into the billy. On special occasions he would leave some cream, in response to a note left out with thebilly. Once a week he would leave a bill under the billy, and Mum would leave an envelope with the money in the billy. Milk wasn't homogenised back then, and my father would scald the milk and lift off the clotted cream on to eat with fresh bread and jam. Far nicer than the cream we buy today in the supermarket.

Every Sunday "the ice-cream man" would come around in his van, ringing a bell. We always had a baked dinner for Sunday lunch and the big treat of the week was having dessert. Mum would send me out to the ice-cream man to buy a small block of ice-cream, which she would cut carefully into four pieces to go with tinned peaches. But my all-time favourite dessert was baked rice pudding with melted butter and nutmeg on top. Again, the pudding served just four people. and it was always a squabble over who would get to scrape out the pan - I think my father had more than his fair share of wins!

Well, for a "blogged out" person, I'm not doing too badly. I'll leave "C" until tomorrow with "D". In case you think I never knit:
This is "Eloise" knitted in Noro Blossom that I made for the oldest Flea. I was pleased with the final result (good grief! I hear you say - pleased? you must be sick!) with the knitting-in elastic carried all through. It has made the fabric denser and with a bit of luck, less stretch-out-of-shapey (love that English).
This is a scarf with the ends turned up to make pockets, in the absence of self-heating mittens a la http://Roxie's Sanna, Sorceress Apprentice. Ordered by Ms 11 of course. (Roxie, I haven't forgotten about Ms 11's review - I'll check it out with her Mum tonight.)