Tag Archives: family

Family matters

I have been busy, offline:

learning about a network of family in New Zealand, Canada, and Scotland that was previously unknown to me; reveling in the new-found solidarity of knowing where I come from; knowing where I stand in the world.

David Millar, my great, great-uncle, born in Scotland, settled in Mangawhai.

David Millar, my great, great-uncle, born in Scotland, settled in Mangawhai.

I have been busy, offline:

celebrating the birthday of one our longest lived family members, my father; he turned 95 in early May.

I have been busy, in real life:

helping my sister put together a creative activity programme for our 92-year-old mother; it is already producing wonderful results,

Painted Lady inspired by Pauline King's art, painted by Mother

Painted  Collage Lady, inspired by Pauline King’s art,  by Mother

including an increase in my own desire to explore painting,

Playing with Paint by Gallivanta, inspired by Pauline King

Playing with Paint by Gallivanta, inspired by Pauline King

and to play.

In moments of down time, I have played with Facebook and WordPress,  and the camera on my mobile phone.  Using the WordPress app was interesting, but not particularly satisfying. I am happy to be back on my laptop, where reading, commenting, and writing are all so much easier. I am happy to have access to my usual camera again.

These recent days, offline, have been enriching. But were mostly made so because of  the wonderful inspiration I gain from my WordPress family. In particular I would like to thank Ellen Grace Olinger for encouraging my interest in colouring and colouring pages, and Pauline King,  The Contented Crafter , for her artistic support and guidance.

Family matters, in real life, in digital life, in history, and in the here and now. Bless you all.

ps: Having written this post, I went to read the newspaper and found this in my horoscope ~”Family matters are favoured today.”  Indeed! For once the horoscope and I are in agreement. 🙂

© silkannthreades

 

I was Awol

You may have noticed that I have been absent from my blog and your blogs.

I had an opportunity last week to make a quick trip across the ditch (Tasman Sea) to visit my very elderly, very frail parents in Cairns, Australia. I hadn’t seen them in six years, so a visit was long overdue. I was also able to spend a short time with my daughter in Cairns.

It was a good, but tiring, visit. I will make my way back to blogging slowly over the next few days.

Cairns is beautiful. The weather was perfect. The birdsong was a joy as were my nightly conversations with a gecko. My daughter gave me a wonderful shoulder/head massage. And there were many hugs with family. 🙂  Saying goodbye to everyone was hard.

Curlews outside my sister's home in Cairns

Curlews outside my sister’s home in Cairns

 

Thursday Threnody

Come sit awhile with me

Come sit awhile with me

Come sit awhile with me

on the porch of ages past,

and drift back in hazy time, to be with the ones of old,

How the old ones lived

How the old ones  may have lived

to hold them now, in how they lived and died.

Final resting place for my great grandparents

Final resting place for my great grandparents; hope it’s a good sermon. 🙂

“Comforts were few in eighteen-fifty-five,
They got up at dawn and they had to strive
With element and enemy to keep alive
And were lucky if they lived to woo and wive
In the early, early days. ….
History tells us they were hard and bold;
They carved out forests and they dug for gold,
But many died young and some died old…

from The Early Days by Basil Dowling

With healing and love,

Gallivanta

© silkannthreades

In the lay of the land

Serious questions ~

Who was the bright spark in ancient geekdom who decided that family history should be defined by lines and begats?

Who were the brighter sparks who devised the rigid wheels and stylised trees to chart and constrain the abundant, multi-dimensional landscape of ancestry?

For a landscape it is, our ancestry; a landscape of wide open spaces,

Wide open spaces

Wide open spaces

crisscrossed with highways and byways, one way roads and slender bridges, little lanes, and streets that go nowhere, signposted for all directions.

A landscape of well-defined boundaries, as well as soft, slippery edges, fluidity and possibility.

A landscape that reveals both the neat and the orderly, the tidy rows of heritage,

Orderly family trees

Orderly family trees

and the more common, impenetrable thickets of entwined limbs and leaves.

Impenetrable thickets

Impenetrable thickets

 

A landscape replete with the swathes and layerings of old growth and new.

Old and New in Kaiapoi Domain

Old and New in Kaiapoi Domain

And let’s not forget the twists and turns which lead to small surprises and unexpected delights.

 

Yes, family history is embedded in the lay of the land,

The landscape of ancestry

The landscape of ancestry

entrenched, without doubt, in terra firma;

or so it seems, until the land falls away, alters and shifts and, suddenly, one is all at sea.

Amelia Sims, the scow built and named for my great great grandmother, formerly of the Isle of Wight

Amelia Sims, the scow built and named for my great great grandmother, Amelia Sims, housekeeper Kaiapoi, formerly of the Isle of Wight

Topsail schooner, “Amelia Sims,” (120 ft., 98 tons) at old wharf, Motueka, about 1903. Built in Australia it reached the home port—Kaiapoi—in 1901 and though having an auxiliary screw for berthing purposes sail was its chief means of propulsion. In moderate weather “Amelia Sims” would carry ten or twelve sails and be a worthy sight in deep water.
—Photo by courtesy of Miss Nina Moffatt, Motueka.http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-NHSJ02_06-t1-body1-d4.html

Gallivanting Note

This post came about following a little jaunt in the countryside at the weekend. I traced some family history, found more questions than answers, and discovered, to my great surprise, that my great great grandmother’s second husband built her a ship, the Amelia Sims which was one of the fleet of sturdy  scows which played an important role in New Zealand’s early transport industry.

© silkannthreades

One of the Many

This is my great-uncle.

My great-uncle

My great-uncle

This is where he lived with his mother and father, brothers and sisters.

Family Home

Family Home

This is the ship that took him to war.

Troopship MaunganuiDeck scene on the troopship Maunganui. Atkinson, J :Photographs taken in the Middle East during World War I, and postcards of New Zealand. Ref: PAColl-0095-002. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23169854

Troopship Maunganui Deck scene on the troopship Maunganui. Atkinson, J :Photographs taken in the Middle East during World War I, and postcards of New Zealand. Ref: PAColl-0095-002. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23169854

This is where he was wounded. In the guts.

Poppies, Gallipoli

Poppies, Gallipoli

This is where he died; on a hospital ship.

Place of Death     At Sea, HMHS Neuralia ex Gallipoli Date of Death     15 August 1915 Year of Death     1915 Cause of Death     Died of wounds

Place of Death At Sea, HMHS Neuralia ex Gallipoli
Date of Death 15 August 1915
Year of Death 1915
Cause of Death Died of wounds

Buried at sea, 1915, August 15, somewhere between Gallipoli and Alexandria.

But remembered here

Lone Pine Memorial, Lone Pine Cemetery, Anzac, Turkey

Lone Pine Memorial, Lone Pine Cemetery, Anzac, Turkey

and here.

One of Otago's 1900

One of Otago’s 1900

He was one of the many;  one of the 1,900 young ones, of Otago, killed during World War One; one of the 18,000 New Zealanders who died between 1914-1918; one of the 888,246 British and Commonwealth fatalities. One of…….. the list that never ends.

 

Does he rest in peace?  I can’t.

 

Acknowledgement: with thanks to my brother for his photos of the Poppies and the Lone Pine Memorial, at Gallipoli.

© silkannthreades

Patience, patience….

My aunt went on, “I don’t know what will become of Sadie. Will you take her home with you and look after her?” “One day, I will,” I replied.  But, for now, she can remain in quiet retirement. She has earned her rest.

Do you remember Sadie Rosemary? The family doll of long years and multiple identities?

Sadie Rosemary

Sadie Rosemary

About six weeks ago, I visited my aunt at her retirement home. She said it was time for me to take care of Sadie; to bring her home with me. The “one day” we spoke of, on previous occasions, had arrived. It was now. No excuses!

So, I swaddled Sadie in her orange shawl, gathered her close, like a newborn babe, and presented her to my aunt for a farewell kiss and, then, with tear-salted smiles, we were off. Off, by car, across the Plains, to begin another chapter in the Life of Sadie Rosemary. It will, most likely, be a staid chapter but Sadie won’t mind. She’s a patient, placid sort, used to sitting about, and letting what will be, be. And, in the process of sitting and being, she’s experienced an enormous amount of life; much more than you would believe by simply looking at her baby-sized self.

Sadie came to life in Japan in the 1920s. Still brand new, she was shipped out  to New Zealand (much like any other settler of the early days), where she found a home in Papanui with two young girls, only a little older than herself.  They all wore matching knitted dresses, home-made in New Zealand. 🙂

Pretending to ride a horse

Pretending to ride a horse

Later, when the little girls grew up, one of them, the one with curly-whirly hair,  went to Fiji, and Sadie eventually joined her, to be cared for by two more little girls; my sister and I.   Sadie, being a  celluloid doll, was not supposed to do well in the heat and moisture but, somehow, she survived more than twenty years in the tropics without exploding or disintegrating. Which meant that, one day, she was able to fly ( in a jet plane, no less! ) all the way back to New Zealand, where, after a certain amount of reverse culture shock, she settled down to a time of quiet contemplation, in the home of her very first companion, my aunt, ( the one with tidy hair and beautiful big bow). In a small, country town they grew old souls, together,

My aunt and Sadie; growing together

My aunt and Sadie; growing together

until that moment, last month, when my aunt said “Now, Sadie, NOW is the time for your next home”.

And, so, here she is, safely home, yet again. To a place where she is snug and content,

Sadie Rosemary, safely home, yet again

Sadie Rosemary, safely home, yet again

and as deeply loved as ever she was.

But quietly, quietly,  I ask, ” Sadie, Rosemary, Sadie, who will take care of you next? ” And from the pale blue eyes there comes a whisper, “Patience, patience; the time is not yet.”  Such wisdom from a doll of long years. 🙂

© silkannthreades

The gifts of a lifetime

In my previous post I mentioned Barbara, giver of the Happiness Kit.

Long before the Happiness Kit came into my household, Barbara (and her family ) gave us other gifts: the gift of thoughtful words, like these,

Barbara's Words, School Magazine 1944

Barbara’s  student words about our duty and responsibility to establish a saner world for our children: School Magazine 1944

and the gift of Angela, otherwise known as my sister-in-law. This coming week it will be Angela’s birthday. This post is my birthday  gift to Angela. ~

I write a lot about reading; reading books, in particular.

This is where my official reading life began;  Lautoka European School,

My brother; the advance party on the reading path.

My brother, first row, 4th from the left; the advance reading party; my mentor at L.E.S.

a small school, in a small colonial town, on a dot of an island, in the vast Pacific Ocean.  My reading ‘prowess’ was acquired, staid word upon staid word, with the assistance of the utterly dull, ‘what-have-these-people-got-to-do-with-my-life’  Janet and John readers, and a young teacher who, whilst relatively benign most of the time, once had the audacity to strap some of us on the back of our legs for failing to recognise the word of the day on the blackboard ~ “BARK”.  I was offended, and still am to this day! WOOF! 😀

Despite this unfortunate hiccup in my early reading days, my enthusiasm for reading did not falter. I attribute that enthusiasm to the pre-reading skills that were nurtured at home,

Playing with Mother aka reading readiness

Gallivanta playing with Mother aka reading readiness

and at  my mother’s kindergarten, through play and story-time. I don’t remember being read to, but I do remember the books that were read and that I later learned to read by myself. Many of those books remain on my bookshelves.  Here’s a sample:

As I was learning to understand, and love, the written word in Lautoka, about 200kms to  the East, another young girl was already well on the road to reading her way through the world of books.

In May, this year, that young girl, now all grown up as Angela Namoi, was awarded the  Pixie O’Harris Award for Distinguished and Dedicated Service to the Development and Reputation of Australian Children’s Books at the  Australian Book Industry Awards.  It was a fitting honour for Angela’s hard work and enormous contribution to children’s literature.  But more than that, it seems to me, the award acknowledges how from the smallest of beginnings, a few, simple written words, be they Janet and John or Pearl Pinkie and Sea Greenie, come riches far greater than any we can possibly  imagine when, in that magical nanosecond, we first decipher those squiggles on the page before us.

Angela puts it like this in these excerpts from her acceptance speech for the Pixie O’Harris award.

This is a huge honour and something I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams.

Pearl Pinkie and Sea Greenie by Pixie O’Harris was a favourite children’s book of mine – who’d have thought that I would one day win an award bearing her name.

There are people to thank!……….

My parents are Australian, but I was born and raised in Fiji. My father was a missionary so we had very little money. Although our clothes might have been sewn from old curtains, it’s thanks to my mother’s excellent sense of priorities that our house was always full of books.

Growing up on a small island meant we were exposed to influences from absolutely everywhere. We read books from all over the world and I was always fascinated by the variations in language, and how connected that was to geography.

This has fed my passion for diversity of voice, so I have greatly enjoyed working to ensure the Australian voice is heard LOUD AND CLEAR in the wider world!

My early experiences confirmed the importance of books in a child’s life. The stats are there for everyone to see – broadly, a child who has books in their home is a child who will do better in life. I believe this passionately.

 

To that I would add: Congratulations and Happy Birthday Angela. You are much-loved.

Related but separate: two examples of Australian Children’s Literature

Possum Magic by Mem Fox

and  The Arrival by Shaun Tan

There are many more. Next time you read a children’s book, take a quick look and check its country of origin. You may find you are in the good company of an Australian. 😉

© silkannthreades