Tag Archives: memories

A thieving little magpie

I have a confession to make.

I steal recipes.

Well, not really. I am more a collector. A collector of recipes – of those which invoke memories, which are tied up with food and joyful occasions, of smells and tastes and feelings, of experiences and emotions.

Over time I have been able to gather together some recipes that bring back those memories in our own kitchen. It’s quite amazing.

There are, of course, some cooking smells or tastes that are best left forgotten. I’m left bewildered at the 70s taste buds that thought peas set in lime jelly or carrots in orange jelly would be a gourmet dish – or olives. Green olives, green jelly. I can clearly see the connection. Only one small step better than Spam, I suppose, or anything set in aspic.

Here’s a link to cause you to wonder how anyone actually survived this era … (by the way, I am a survivor!) Unbelievable recipes!!

These are definitely not the recipes that I have accumulated!! (Although my very aged copy of the Complete Women’s Weekly cookbook may have some within, accompanied by a tasteful colour picture, or two.)

It was the smell of the freshly baked bread that got me thinking, along with the essential oils that diffuse through our house at night-time. It reminded me how when I even see certain foods, they transport me to another time or place.

Here’s a classic example – give me a fresh buttered brezel and instantly I am in an open subway station in Munich, 2004, making my way in the cold to language school, Not just any old station, but specifically this one:
Karlsplatz Stachus MunichKarlsplatz (Stachus), not in its all fancy bright lights and renovated state, but all concrete-y and looking like something out of the Communist Era (and I know, before you say, that this did not include Munich, but this subway …)


I have yet to try my hand at brezeln making – but I do have a recipe somewhere …

In my mind, when I make falafels, I’m finding my way through the streets of old Jerusalem, I smell naan bread and roasted spices and I’m wandering down the streets of Birmingham’s Balti Triangle, in its heyday, with a Balti restaurant on every corner. Hot custard takes me right back to Grandma’s kitchen, sitting at her red laminate table, looking at the plastic fruit.

I tried a new falafel recipe the other week, inspired by the combination of the efforts of an old school friend and co-incidentally a recipe appearing in the local supermarket magazine. Unlike other attempts, they did not disintegrate into tiny, impossible-to-eat segments in the oil. Not only that, they were declared a ‘keeper’, which is always a good thing, especially since we’d only eaten half of the mix!

I don’t even have a photo of them, which is really sad for a foodie, blogging type person, but as I commented to another old school friend, they were hardly photogenic, although very tasty. It’s not all about looks, you know!

There’s a name for this smell/memory thing – olfactory memory – and there are some interesting studies on it, which include how the brain responds to smell. There appear to be fewer studies on the compulsive desire to have lots of recipes with lots of pictures to drool over, which are never recreated.

It is an interesting thing, considering the brain injury experience in our home, to learn about the sense of smell. Did you know it is the only sense which makes its way directly to the brain, rather than via a series of nerve endings? We have also learnt it is often triggered as a pre-symptom to a seizure, which is helpful for being prepared.

But in the meantime, with my new stove (which, I assure you, was a very welcome change to the kitchen), I am inspired to hit the pile of saved up papers and see what sorts of (nice) smells I can conjure up, to create some new memories to stack away.

My feature photo today is of some preparation for just that. I’m going to launch a balti on my poor unsuspecting husband, so I’ve been cooking up spices and sauces, turning the kitchen a turmeric shade of yellow. I’ll let you know how it all ends up (only if successful of course! 🙂 )

And just for fun, I came across this photo taken by Philipp Kester, which is kept in the Münchner Stadtmuseum … titled “Breznverkäuferin im Hofbräuhaus”, which goes to show I am not alone in my liking of Brez’n 🙂

15_kester_breznverkaeuferin-hofbraeuhaus richard wagner & louis ii
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“Reading one book is like eating one potato chip.”

I have discovered a new website, but I fear it will be the death of ‘free time’ for me.

As a child, the ability to read suddenly clicked in Grade 1. I don’t know what made it suddenly all fall into place, but once it did, there was a whole new world out there waiting to be discovered!

Fortunately, I lived in a home filled with books. Lots of books. I moved into a smaller house when I was older, and quite a few books came with me. My husband (who is not really a reader) very kindly bought me a Kindle Reader, which does save on a lot of space. He also attached our Billy bookcases to the wall so they wouldn’t fall on his head. (By the way, did you know Ikea estimates a Billy bookcase is sold somewhere every five seconds??? That’s a lot of bookcases!!)

The library is also my friend (given that this is a cheap and cheerful life, after all), and fortunately I live quite close to a very good one, which has lots of books. Unlike my old school library, which we went into at my school’s recent anniversary. Most of the shelves weren’t even there anymore. It broke my heart to see this library like this, apart from the fact that it didn’t look right any more, missing its tall shelves with the Dewey system numbers painted on with old-style gold paint. Grant you, I am sentimental, but I really did start to feel sorry for the students that are there now.

whs library 1946 DSCN5344  whs library 2019 IMG_6378

But to my new found source of interesting stuff … the GoodReads website …

This was the quote that brought me there:

“Throw off your worries when you throw off your clothes at night.”
― Napoleon Bonaparte

I came across this quote whilst working through a DailyOM course, and as it seemed an unlikely thing for an emperor/conquering character to say, I thought I would try to locate the source of the quote. I have yet to discover in what context Napoleon used this phrase (and could it be like a meme I saw on Facebook attributed to Abraham Lincoln … “Everything you see on the Internet is 100% true”…), so if anyone knows, please feel free to enlighten me!

{I can only think it was in a letter to his good wife Josephine (or maybe the second one, Marie-Louise) … it doesn’t really sound like an extract from a good, stirring, off-to-battle and kill-them-all speech, does it …}

I have used quotes from this website before, but not really had a good look through it. And now … oh dear … there are books and more books that are catching my eye. This could be a good thing, as I like reading, but maybe not, as I have quite a lot of things I should also be doing … like writing more regular blog posts, for example!

It is amazing that in the English language, with only twenty-six symbols in their infinite combinations, could bring into being such an enormous amount of writings, so very different from each other. It gives me a headache thinking about it, because it is so vast. I have the same mind-boggled thoughts about music. And so many different thoughts that go through the human brain to create those words, or that music. Okay, I should stop now.

My heading today is a quote from Diane Duane’s book, ‘So You Want to Be a Wizard’. With phrases like that, I think wizardry should be my next career choice. But at the very least, I should add this book to my list.

Ah, THE list … I have a few books on that ‘must-read next’ list, courtesy of other book-loving friends. I also have books I go back to, often. I could not tell you how often I have read the Chronicles of Narnia, The Princess Bride, or Jane Austen’s writings. But most recently I have been reading about what colours to wear and how to use
OneNote.

Sometimes one’s reading has to be of a more practical nature 😦

And sometimes one has to learn to stop, like I should here. No funny stories to share with you today … just lots of memories of sneakily reading the last chapter of a book by torchlight, tucked under the sheets. No-one could tell, of course, so I believed …

 

Today’s photos are: an artistic streak from me, as well as:
Whyalla High library in 1946 from the WHS records
Whyalla High library in 2018 courtesy of Gen Gordon

 

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.

New Picture (3)

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.

New Picture (1)

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.

New Picture (2)

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.

New Picture (8)

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 …

 

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/)