The Secret Ingredient

Seeing all the places you can pick up a ready-cooked roast chicken today it’s hard to imagine a town or even suburb without a Chicken Shop but when I was growing up there weren’t any. We kept chooks but having roast chicken was a real treat and one was enough for all of us with some left over to have cold the next day. (There would have been plenty of vegetables to fill us up.)

One special day my Aunty Mavis was down from Port Pirie and we went for a picnic at Victor Harbor which is about an hours drive south of Adelaide. Aunty Mavis was Mum’s sister and they never got on, even at 80+ years old Aunty Mavis would make digs about how spoilt, “Little Jeannie” was.  Mum was the youngest of 13 children but we only ever knew the youngest four.

The day we went to Victor Harbor our picnic lunch included chicken and we sat on the foreshore under the shade of the Norfolk Island Pines to eat it. I was thoroughly enjoying my piece of chicken until I noticed little white things moving on it. They were maggots. I have no idea how or when they got onto it but they were there. I knew if I said anything Mum would be shamed in front of Aunty Mavis so I discreetly disposed of my piece of chicken and said absolutely nothing. The others all seemed to enjoy their lunch and I never told a soul about the extra protein I found in my piece of chicken.

You didn’t know that about Nana did you?

"Spoilt Little Jeannie" 1916

“Spoilt Little Jeannie” 1916



When Papa and I were away camping a few weeks ago the daily temperatures went up into the mid 30s and once again I became a wreck. Even though the campervan was like a sweatbox all I could do was crawl inside and fall asleep then after a couple of hours Papa gave me wet flannels to cool me down. All my life hot days have caused me problems.

In 1954 the Queen came to Adelaide and thousands of school children went to Wayville Showgrounds to welcome her. You can watch some video of it here:  You definitely won’t see me in the audience or performing and I’ll explain why.

I can’t remember how we got to the showgrounds but it was probably by tram and on arrival we were all herded into the sheep pens. Although the visit was in March and the Royal Adelaide Show was always in September the pens were still rank because the wooden floorboards had absorbed so much sheep pee. After what seemed like ages we were herded out into the sunshine to stand around the central arena. The next thing I knew, I was lying on the grass at the St John’s Ambulance tent and I distinctly remember silently pleading, “Let me stay here, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t make me go back there.”

The photo below was taken at Waikerie during a camping holiday in 1948, Mum put me under the sprinklers because I was heat stressed.

You didn’t know that about Nana did you?


Creek Swimming

In about 1953 our family moved to our “new house” at Fulham. The house was actually old, built about 1900. Outside the front fence was a hitching post where people had tied up their horses in the old days. In front of our house there was a row of trees which had pods like Chestnuts. Tapleys Hill Road was a normal two way road lined, most of the way, with market gardens though diagonally across from our house was a vacant block completely covered with reeds. The River Torrens used to empty into wetlands around the area before the Breakout Channel was dug.

The southern boundary of our property was in the middle of the creek and when the creek was high enough, the boys sometimes swam in it. About half way down our back yard there was a big log lying across the creek and we used to stand or sit on that to get into the water. Once Mum tied a rope around me and lowered me in to teach me to swim. I’d seen Mike scramble out of the creek and put salt on a leech that was sucking blood out of his calf so I kept my legs kicking frantically believing that would stop any from getting on me. The moment I stopped kicking I got out of the water, I’m sure it did absolutely nothing to help me learn to swim.

One year the water started drying out when there were lots of Redfin Fish in the creek and we had great fun scooping them up and putting them in buckets of water. We also watched Swallows frantically zoom about under the Stanford Bridge when we went too close to their nests and babies.


You didn’t know that about Nana, did you?

People lined up on the Stanford Bridge, during the Queen's visit in 1963.

People lined up across the Stanford Bridge, during the Queen’s visit in 1963.

The Shabby Chaffeur

I think I was the first person in my family who had to sit a practical driving test to get a license, before that as soon as you turned 16 you could answer a few written questions and if you passed you got your license even if you’d never been in a driver’s seat. I can’t remember if I was 16 or 17 when I got my Learner’s Permit but I’m fairly sure I did the test at a centre above the Railway Station, maybe now the area’s been gobbled up by the Casino. Ricky came home from his work in the South East once and said he’d teach me to drive. We borrowed the old Hillman Minx which Aunty Mavis had given to Mike and went to an area near Lockleys where land was being sub-divided. There were some roads but no traffic. Ricky showed me how to select the gears then said to put the car in reverse and back into a parallel park. I made a mess of it and that was the start and finish of my first driving lesson. When I was 17 I had some lessons with the RAA and then did the test at Port Adelaide. Before the test I’d needed a couple of goes to parallel park and also gone the wrong way down a one way street so I was already “emotional” and hadn’t even started the real test. A policeman assessed me and I goofed the hill start when I stalled the car so despondently restarted the procedure, assuming I’d failed. I passed! After I got my license I sometimes drove Dad’s car, a Valiant Spacemaster but I didn’t like driving it. I always felt it drove me, I wasn’t really in control and when I think about it now I’m not surprised. It had big bench seats and I’m sure I never managed to move it forward so I would have been stretched right out to reach the pedals. Sometimes Dad would be away with work for weeks and he would leave the car home which was fine if I wanted to drive it but there was a downside. Dad would occasionally be late getting ready so he’d miss the bus then come into the bedroom and ask me to drive him to work. I’d get out of bed in my PJs and drive him, terrified that the car would break down and I’d be marooned in my pyjamas. Luckily it never happened. You didn’t know that about Nana did you?


A Hillman similar to the one that was- family car, florist delivery van, Mike’s transport to Findon High School then with roof open Geoffrey’s Spotlighting Car extraordinaire on Uncle Geoff’s farm

The 1954 Vanguard, Spacemaster, Reg No. 409 076

Writing 101: Lost part2

OK, I admit I’m totally off task today but I’ve chosen to continue the “lost” theme for the serial we started on Day 4 of Writing 101 rather than change it to “found”. My task is unfinished, it’s a 3 part serial after all.


The little girl rode along the footpath near her home, not fast, just enjoying the day, which was lucky. She wouldn’t have seen it if she’d been in a rush to go somewhere but the leisurely pace meant she noticed the small oval item lying on the ground beside the path. She stopped, straddled the bike and reached down for it. A small medal showing detailed relief of a man carrying a small child on his shoulder. Clutching it in her fist she rode home and showed the housekeeper who told her it was a St Christopher, the patron saint of travellers. The idea of someone looking out for you as you travelled appealed to the girl and for several years she kept the medal safe in a box with shells and other little treasures.

The time came for her to leave home and rather than abandon the medal with her childhood trinkets she put it in her wallet. It was with her when she lived in small country towns and when she travelled to large cities. It stayed with her when she travelled through small countries and across large continents until eventually it came back with her to Australia.

As wallets wore out and were replaced the medal found a new home in the new wallet until the day an angry young man wrenched open a filing cabinet and stole the wallet. The medal was gone.



Bribery Just Might Be OK …sometimes

Bribery sounds like a nasty word, coercing someone into doing something they don’t want to do but it’s worked well for me. I’m a social coward. I’m not comfortable in lots of social situations, I can bluff my way through but it’s not enjoyable for me. Having to perform in public is something that I loathe but when I was working I often couldn’t avoid it. When the worst of these situations came up I resorted to bribery.

I had to conduct a Signing Choir at the Festival Theatre so I promised myself that if I did it I could buy the dragon earrings I really liked. Even that wasn’t quite enough to get me through it,  I had to go to a doctor for some “Beta Blockers”. I was so ashamed I went to a doctor near my work, someone I’d never seen before and wouldn’t see again. I was surprised when she told me several people who played in the Symphony Orchestra used them.

For a few months at one workplace I had a bad time and every day was a trial, I promised myself a quirky little ornament if I made it to Friday. They are the ones on my kitchen windowsill.

I sometimes use Smarties to bribe little grandkids to get into their car but big bribes are all for me!

You didn’t know that about Nana did you?