A step back in time

I’m having a bit of a retrospective time of it at the moment. My high school is embarking on 75th anniversary celebrations at the end of the month, bringing with it an influx of old school photos onto my Facebook feed. Many of these are from before my time, although many names are familiar, partly because they are relatives of my school friends. However, the older photos have lists of names which sound like the local street directory, which I find amusing.

I didn’t study history until my last year of school, and even then, it was rather dry and ho-hum. I developed a taste for it when I was able to visit places where things actually happened. As part of that process, an interest in the history of my birthplace also developed.

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Whyalla is a relatively new place – by the standards of Europe it is virtually a baby – but it means that the links to its beginnings are still there. We visited Tony’s aunt and uncle a little while ago, which was lovely. During the conversation, out came the 100 year anniversary book from their primary school. On the first page is a faded photo of the very first students of the tiny Hummock Hill School, dated around 1905. Aunty Dawn pointed to one of the little girls in their white smocks. “There’s my mum.” Not much further along in the book is Uncle Bernie playing his fife. If my sums are right, he would have been one of the early students at my high school, which somehow makes the gap quite small. I have a feeling he was just as cheeky a little boy as he is an old man. I only wish I had met him earlier.

Built on the shoulders of industry, Whyalla is a dry and dusty place, covered in iron ore and pellet plant dust. The result is that the older buildings have a *slightly* pink tinge to them and the hot north winds have a kind of abrasive effect. The ‘Big Australian’, BHP, was keen to make the most of the recently discovered iron ore deposits in the Middleback Ranges in the early 1900s. It made economic sense to house the miners and the harbour workers nearby and so gradually a town grew on the coast.

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I think I might write more about that in another post later on, but for now, we’ll move on rapidly through a few decades.

By the late 1930s, it was decided a high school building was necessary. More children were staying in school for longer – the compulsory leaving age had been made higher – and BHP needed engineers and apprentices for its pig-iron and shipbuilding enterprises, so the education had to match. There certainly wasn’t enough room for them at the existing primary schools.

As with most major projects in Whyalla, the majority of funding for the initial building was contributed by BHP. With its first long-term Headmaster, Mr Hartley Searle, at the helm, it steadily grew. I have not had personal contact with Mr Searle, but I had reason to feel not-so-kindly in his direction as I worked my way through five years of his Maths textbooks with their imaginary and real concepts.

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My high school was unique for its time. By the time I attended this school, with its younger buildings climbing up the hill, it was the way most state schools are now – co-ed with a broad range of subjects available. But in the 1940s this was not the norm. Many of the state schools were still boys or girls only schools and there were limited choices. In ‘High’ schools, there was a choice of the General course (to go on to further study) or the Commercial (to be some sort of secretary). The ‘Technical’ high schools were for preparing students for trades.

Whyalla Technical High School combined both types of education. (The ‘Technical’ was dropped in 1971.) It also had the bonus of housing the trade school for apprentices and a flourishing night school for the community.

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I know the school was still used for community education even up until the early 1980s, as my mother attended music theory classes held by one of the music teachers one night a week. As a child, I went with her sometimes. My most distinct memory of this, apart from the lines of desks in a small room, is getting into trouble for leaving a book behind. The ballet school I attended also used the school hall for its annual recital until it moved more permanently into the TAFE College.

As I sit here writing, pictures and memories flash through my mind …

Kids running from all directions towards a narrow gate to catch the bus home.
The smell of pancake in the hall dressing rooms.
The herded feeling of the canteen queue (in, ironically, a converted dairy building).
The Principal wandering across the lawn to his house at lunchtime.
Learning dance routines for school musicals.
Blue, white and grey bodies, everywhere you look, making their way to different rooms for the next class.DSCN4826
Ducking at school assemblies while squawking seagulls fly overhead.

The coolness inside the main building – a relief from the heat outside.
Seeing the Queen racing past the school, running slightly late for an official engagement.
And what felt like rites of passage … as I look down at my pencil tin, made so long ago in metalwork class, along with at least 140 others that year alone.

The thought that this school could be closed down in the next few years makes me sad. Sad at a loss of history and sad that my hometown has diminished so much that there aren’t enough students to justify keeping it open … or maybe it’s progress. I don’t know …New Picture (6)

So, this is part of the reason this anniversary weekend is personally important.

And then another thought passes through my mind … a song from a couple of years before I started high school.

And another memory flashes by of sitting in the front foyer by the Principal’s office, with the honour boards above my head looking slightly precarious, while I anxiously wait to go to a piano exam and watch teenagers clattering down the library stairs …

Kids out driving Saturday afternoon just pass me by
And I’m just savouring familiar sights
We share some history, this town and I
….
Number one is to find some friends to say, “You’re doing well.”
After all this time you boys look just the same
Number two is the happy hour at one of two hotels
Settle in to play, “Do you remember so and so?”
Number three is, never say her name.

 

Happy 75th anniversary Whyalla High School!
Acknowledgements:
Flame Trees lyrics © O/B/O Apra Amcos
Songwriters: Steve Prestwich / Don Walker (Cold Chisel)

Feature Photo: Whyalla Technical High School 1945 from foto supplies – Albury Camera House (Flickr) used by permission.

Other photos … various photography classes …

 

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A Grand Jeté forward

A couple of weeks ago I celebrated the one year anniversary of me returning to ballet classes. After a hiatus of some 30 years, I was inspired to return and find the graceful me that had somehow been lost in the mists of time.

RMcD.Wed.ofI know that it is working, because the day after this auspicious occasion, I fell down the stairs at work. Don’t worry – it was only a couple of stairs, and probably the most hurt bit of me was my pride (because, of course, there was someone at the foot of the stairs watching this all unfold!!)

I find my old ballet teacher haunts me, telling me to pull my tail under, or to point my feet more. If it wasn’t for the fact that she is actually still alive, although unwell and quite elderly, I would ask her nicely to please go away and let me enjoy myself. But in a way, it is good that she’s there – because she actually was a very good teacher – although exceptionally firm – so I do point my toes more and probably I have better technique as a result.

I learnt ballet for eight years as a child/teenager, and thoroughly enjoyed it, except for pointe work. I met girls who were at different schools and who were different ages to me, so my social circle widened. It was like a family and I’m glad to have all of the ballet girls, as well as the few ballet boys, in my life. Many of us learnt for many years, so we spent quite a bit of time with each other, learning exercises for exams and later in the year, routines for the annual recital.

IMG_1288My father used to say he was a wonderful ballet mother, as he joined in the transporting of daughters to their many classes per week. Somehow my sister’s timetable and mine never matched up, so it was five or six trips per week to the ballet studio for our parents. I am amused by the fact that his ballet mother status did not extend to sewing costumes, or assisting with applying make-up, or any of the other tasks my mother was roped into doing.

When I wait to go into classes now, I look at the ballet fathers (including my dentist), and it makes me glad that they are part of this part of their children’s lives.

Ballet as an adult does not include obligatory exams or concerts – which will be a relief to the concert-goers. I’m not sure performing adults is such a great look, so I’m glad this ballet school doesn’t encourage it.

But I am back baby!

With the grace of a baby elephant, I leap around the room, with all the finesse that a few extra (unwanted) kilos bring, and adding my own creative spin on a lot of the exercises, I am there! Why, in a couple more years I could have the Australian Ballet banging on my front door, begging me to join them.

While that may be stretching the truth just a little, I am not regretting going back to ballet at all. I have met some lovely people, who mutter under their breath just as much as I do when we make mistakes. We have classes where everything goes right and classes where it is the complete opposite.

But for now, I’ll leave you with a funny story that my old ballet teacher told us when we recently visited her.

Before she started our ballet school in about 1973, she had a job teaching dance classes for upper primary in the local schools. Dance classes, she had found, were quite popular with the girls, but not so much with the boys. But suddenly, this was no longer the case. Much to the teacher’s surprise, the boys poured into dance class. She couldn’t quite work out why, until she heard mention of the name Ron Barassi … a famous footballer turned coach in Melbourne, who was including ballet in his football training. All the boys wanted to play football like him, so off to dance class they went!

I researched a little about this football legend and discovered he helped Sir Robert Helpmann with some football-inspired choreography in the mid-1960s. If you’ve ever seen the ballet “The Display”, this is the result. It also seems to have had the consequence of some unorthodox football training, which goes to show, you never know quite where ballet can take you … but that’s another story for another day …

 

Today’s featured photo is courtesy of Kryziz Bonny, a very talented photographer from Mexico. You can follow her on Flickr. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/kryziz/)

Cheap and Cheerful soup

This blog is called “Cheap & Cheerful Life” because it links up with a couple of (neglected) social media platforms I have. I set up these about 6 years ago when, for a short time, we were on a single income. We were living on the cheap, but I was trying very hard to be cheerful. I’m not sure how well I was doing – maybe others can judge that better – but since then, I have been competing with my local supermarket to dish up healthy meals that are on a reasonable budget.

I made a bold statement the other day to someone where I proclaimed I could feed four people for about $2.50 a serve. Although this is probably true of a number of dishes I cook, I decided to do a costing of the lunch I was going home to prepare … just to see.

While I pondered the cost of an average onion, I recalled an article someone had drawn to my attention recently. It was a discussion about why people below the poverty line buy take-away food. The conclusion was that the initial outlay of cooking utensils was prohibitive. People who are living week to week aren’t going to invest hundreds of dollars on a high-end set of saucepans, or an exotic set of European knives. For this recipe, I’m glad to say it only requires a sharp knife, peeler, chopping board, wooden spoon and a saucepan. It also makes me glad because the fewer utensils, the less washing up I have to do!

Just out of interest, based on these thoughts, I had a look at my local Ikea website to see what a 2018 costing would be for utensils. I only picked Ikea because it is global, unlike a lot of our cheap department stores where these items could also be found, and possibly cheaper. I discovered for about $AUD55, I could purchase two pots and a frying pan, two chopping boards, three sharp knives, a peeler and wooden spoon. This is marginally less than two McDonalds Family McFavourites boxes.

Interesting.

So, what was my super-cheap meal?

‘Minestrone’ soup
(only in quotes, because I’m sure it’s not exactly the traditional variety)

3 strips rindless shortcut bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
400g tinned diced tomatoes
400g tinned kidney beans, drained
250ml vegetable stock
More water, if you want
Pinch or two of salt

In the saucepan, cook up the bacon, garlic and onion. When mostly cooked, add carrots and celery to soften slightly. Add tomatoes, beans, stock, extra water, salt and allow to simmer for a bit.  Serve up and eat 🙂

So … how does this cost up?

At my local supermarket, my costings came in as follows:

Bacon                                       $10/500g …$1.90
Onion                                       $2.00/kg …  $0.30
Carrots                                    $1.50/kg …  $0.30
Celery                                      $3/celery … $0.30
400g tinned tomatoes          $0.80
400g tinned kidney beans  $1.50
Garlic                                           )
250ml vegetable stock      ) $1.00 (generous approximation)
More water, if you want   )
Pinch or two of salt             )

Additional two slices of toast  $3.50/loaf … $0.50 (including a bit of butter)

Now for four people … $6.10 + $2.00 for toast = $2.03 per serve.

Well, if that ain’t cheap and cheerful, I don’t know what is! 🙂

Guten Appetit!

PS I would have given you a photo of a bowl of steaming, hot soup, except for a couple of reasons: a) we ate the soup before I thought about writing about it; and b) I don’t know when I’m making it next, as the weather has suddenly jumped up to the high twenties (Celsius), so we’ve hit the salads!

PPS And a few days later, right on cue, the spring weather goes cold and so soup is back on the menu 🙂

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A father or two …

Last weekend was Fathers’ day. This has become a bittersweet day for me. My own father passed away almost eleven years ago and left quite a big gap in my life – as a sounding board, as my chief champion and as part of the ‘always been there, no matter what’ brigade.

Kevin was an intelligent man who dreamed of having a daughter named Rosemary and a daughter with long hair. I’m not sure if the two were meant to be one and the same, but it turned out that they were. He later had a dream of his daughters becoming engineers, but that one didn’t come to fruition!

Apart from the fact he couldn’t really sing in tune, he was a great dad. He was there for us, which sadly many fathers aren’t. He drove us to ballet lessons, helped with homework (in a very frustrating way … asking me questions to try to get to the answer) and tried to pass on his incredible and varied knowledge.

I learnt some valuable things from dad. One was that having a good general knowledge is really helpful. Not just to win Trivial Pursuit, or be really good at crosswords, but rather to be able to communicate well with people, whether the topic is personally interesting or not. He tried to teach me about engines too, but didn’t do so well on that front. I feel that this may have been more a problem with the student, rather than the teacher.

He did have some not so great habits though. One was a slight lack of punctuality! (Ha ha! My auto-correct tried to suggest ‘punctuation’ … now that was a thing he was pedantic about!) Now, where was I? Yes, punctuality … the man was even late to his own funeral! Although as a spoiler to a good story, it was really due to having a last minute change to the chapel at the cemetery, because such a large number came to pay their respects.

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Fourteen months later I met another tall, dark, handsome man. I always say he got me when I was vulnerable, but the truth is he had me at hello.

With him came a new dad. It’s nice to have a father figure back in my life again. There aren’t loads of similarities between my father-in-law and my dad. They’re both males, and they both love me unconditionally, which makes most other comparisons not really worth bothering about. And it gives me the chance to learn from life experience again too.

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We spent a really nice day picnicking at our favourite Mt Lofty Botanical Gardens with family for Fathers’ Day. It was a new place for my father-in-law, and I suspect he loves it as much as we do. It certainly is on the agenda for when he visits again.

In the end, despite all the blah about fathers needing new lawn-mowers, and who knows what else for days like this, it really is about showing appreciation for what our fathers have done for us, taking the opportunity to spend some quality time together and making a treasured memory. And that we did 🙂

What a difference a day makes …

Today, four years ago, my life changed.

I can think of several occasions in my life when one day has turned into a game changer. Today is the fourth anniversary of one of the bigger ones, in fact probably the biggest.

I got a call from Tony’s phone, but it wasn’t him. It was one of the work safety officers.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “Tony got a hit to the head. He blacked out but he’s conscious now. We’ve made arrangements for him to get airlifted out though.”

Understandably, I freaked out.

“How did that happen?”

I don’t remember the exact conversation from there, but it turned out that the excavator bucket had hit the side of the dump truck Tony was driving (due to having a ‘respite’ night). The steel frame of the cabin had rolled with the punches and hit Tony on the forehead as he looked out the window at the side mirror.

Little did we know at the time, it was not just concussion, but would later be diagnosed as a traumatic brain injury.

Traumatic brain injury. I didn’t know much about that at the time. My experience of blacking out was, and is still is, a big fat zero. But believe me, I’ve learnt a lot!

As time has gone on, we have moved through various different parts of state and federal legislation. I have become not just a full time worker, but a full time carer as well, which has been a new challenge

We have shouted and cried more often than I care to remember, but most of all we have had to learn to adapt – adapt to a new environment where brain injury is not understood by many of those we know, and where for Tony, life has been a struggle while he tries to adjust to the ‘new’ him.

We have turned into people who appreciate the simpler things in life while we try to live carefully.

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But at the same time we try to have a giggle a day. After all, laughter is good for the soul, we are told, and I firmly believe it.
I am also told that people with brain injury often improve and I hope this is the case with Tony.

I’d like to put it out in public that I am married to a man I am proud of – for his continuing tenacity and how he just keeps on trying, regardless of how much it hurts. He tries for me and for us, and this brave face inspires me to keep fighting for him and with him.

“It ain’t easy”, to quote Liamoo, (in a song not quite to my normal taste), but if this has taught me one thing, it is that I need to hang in there!

So, for all you out there who are doing it tough, I hope you can find the strength from someone or something, to hang in there, and get to the other side.

 

Today’s photos are a beautiful rose outside our front door from last month and the machine that caused life to change.
And here’s a song link, if you were wondering … https://www.letssingit.com/liamoo-lyrics-it-ain-t-easy-jqkpjcz

Got a second?

So I’m at the football again, (I desperately need therapy), and it’s half-time. This is a time at the game where I get to ‘time out’. I survey the crowd, have a giggle at the little Aus-kick kids trying to emulate their favourite players and look at the heritage-listed scoreboard.

Today the old scoreboard clock has stopped. On the many occasions I have been to the Adelaide Oval – for football, cricket, concerts, and even our wedding reception – I have decided that the clock is only started at match times. So today, either someone forgot to start it, or its 107 year-old batteries have conked out.

But you guessed it … it got me thinking. Thinking about time and how I fail, more than frequently, to take time out. I read all the stuff that talks about re-filling your cup, about mindfulness, about looking after yourself so you can look after others … and I’m totally rubbish at all of it. And you know what? I’m beginning to look like a frazzled, old lady; frantically wishing that time would stand still, just for a moment.

There are places where time does seem to stand still. Funnily enough, they seem to me to be places of nature … the beach, a forest, on a mountain, or in a beautiful garden. But time also has a funny way of speeding up when you’re having fun or having a good sleep. Oh yes … time goes way too fast when you’re in happy dream world!!

We know each second ticks by evenly, and yet our perception of time varies so much on our circumstances. Time, when you’re bored, drags on at a snail’s pace, but in contrast, I have a dear friend who quite possibly doesn’t have enough time left to do all the things she wanted to do in her life.

There is much truth in phrases like “make every second count”. Out of curiosity, I did a GoodReads search for quotes about time. There were so many nuggets of wisdom and profound thoughts that I wish I could quote all of them, but instead, I’ll leave you a link and contain myself to a few which struck me as particularly lovely.

From Jorge Luis Borges: “Being with you and not being with you is the only way I have to measure time.”

From Psalm 90:12: “Teach us to number our days, that we may acquire a wise heart.”

From The Memory-Keeper’s Daughter: “You can’t stop time. You can’t capture light. You can only turn your face up and let it rain down.”

And lastly from the ever-wise, optimistic Maya Angelou: “This is a wonderful day, I have never seen this one before”.

Have a wonderful day!!
https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/time

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today’s photos are: a busy bee down the road from my house last spring (Sept 2017) and one of our wedding photos at Adelaide Oval, courtesy of Lisa Bailye, 2011.

Cuppa anyone?

It’s the season of sunshine and daffodils. “What?” I hear you ask. “Don’t you live in the Southern Hemisphere, where the end of May heralds the start of winter?”

And yes, this is very true. It has been unseasonably warm through May though. So much so, that on Mothers’ Day, we were thrilled to see our frangipani flowering for the first time. (photos here for your viewing pleasure.)

 

But we don’t have any daffs. I’m not such a fan. It seems I must be a bit unique in this because they are wildly popular for Daffodil Day – a Cancer Council Australia fundraiser, as well as being used as their emblem.

I was reminded of this on Thursday as I threw together ingredients for biscuits – my contribution towards our building’s annual “Biggest Morning Tea” – another Australia-wide fundraiser held by the Cancer Council.

Most of the food is homemade, but there sometimes is one who tries to pass off store-bought as their own. This year, one cheeky fellow almost had the organiser fooled that he’d baked his own cake, until another tea-drinker said she’d seen the packaging. We giggled, but at least he had brought something to share with us.

Businesses and community groups join together with plates of goodies and their best teacups or coffee mugs to raise funds to beat cancer.

I don’t know a family who hasn’t been affected by this insidious disease. Our’s has been. In fact, today is the fourth anniversary of my aunty’s passing away. And she is one of at least four close family members we remember throughout the year, let alone our friends, their family members or work colleagues.

The Biggest Morning Tea has been going in Australia for 25 years this year, over half my lifetime. The funds generous tea drinkers contribute are directed towards programmes that assist cancer patients and their families, as well as to cancer research.

 

For the sake of families suffering now and in the future, I am more than willing to raise a cup to help … and to share with you my biscuit recipe that is quick to make … so you too can confidently offer to make a morning tea contribution.

PS my husband advises you to forget the cooking – just eat the mix 😊

Burnt Butter Biscuits (naturally not any diet-friendly)

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C
125g butter                –  melt the butter in a saucepan or in the microwaveimg_5691-copy-e1527292250799.jpg, allow to cool
½ cup caster sugar   –  add the sugar and mix together
1 large egg                  –  beat the egg into the mix
1 cup SR flour            – add the flours and mix in
½ cup plain flour

– spoon out mix onto baking tray to walnut sized blobs
– top with half a blanched almond or a glace cherry
Cook for approx 12-15 mins (or until golden brown)

These are Australian cups, so 1 cup = 250 ml; ½ cup = 125 ml