Christmas Cards –life stories

Another Christmas has come and gone and with it the latest round of cards but this time it’s left me wishing I’d actually kept some over the years. Last year I was shocked to learn that a friend’s husband had died just a month before Christmas, this year I read that another friend’s husband is now on oxygen 24/7 and my brother-in-law is in end stage respiratory failure. It was very confronting, there’s no ignoring the fact my friends and I are now nearing the ends of our lives. If I think back over the years and the Christmas cards we shared, they covered all the significant events in our lifetimes.

I probably started sending Christmas cards when I left Australia on the almost obligatory backpacking jaunt to Europe in the 1970s. Although I wrote weekly to my parents it was the annual Christmas cards that shared my travel experiences with my friends. Some were married before I left but the news of other engagements and marriages  came in Christmas cards. Babies arrived so then photos were often enclosed in the Christmas cards.

Other significant happy events like buying a home, children starting school or holiday news were shared. As time went on the news changed to include the graduations, employment, engagements, marriages etc of children usually followed by the births of grandchildren.

For many years I received lovely hand made cards from a friend’s mother then she sent commercially produced ones until finally there was no card and I read in her daughter’s Christmas card that she’d died.

As I think back over all the years and all the information we’ve shared about our lives I wish I still had the written record. Postage has become more expensive, two cards that came this year from overseas had stamps on them worth £1.30 or $2.65 AUD so even people like me who’ve been sending Christmas cards for years are actually reconsidering.

I doubt that my grandchildren will ever send Christmas cards, emails and social media are the current communication methods and they’re free.  I could say they’re usually deleted and lost forever but so are all the cards and stories I’ve thrown away over the last 46 years.  If only I’d understood how important they really were.

Instead of two like this only one came this year, another leaf has fallen from the tree.

Instead of two like this only one came this year, another leaf has fallen from the tree.

Names

With the birth of a new grandchild coming up in a few months the subject of names has come up again. I started to wonder if the name given to a child makes them more likely to develop certain characteristics.

I’m sure Mum had most say in naming us and I was registered, “Rosemary Sue” but to Dad that was too fancy and I was always called, “Sue”. I wasn’t Suzanne, Suzanna or Susan, just Sue and I was used to that. When I went to a private secondary school Mum convinced me to let them all think I used my first name. It never sat well with me and as soon as I left school I always introduced myself as “Sue”. I’m not someone who likes to stand out, I don’t like parties and big celebrations much preferring smaller family get togethers. If I’d been called “Rosemary” all my life would I have been different? Would I have seen myself as someone much more complex and interesting? If I’d chosen my own name it would probably have been something like “Josie “ or Rebecca” to me they’re nice to say, they have a bit of mystery to them, I wouldn’t have been one of six in a class but nor would I have been constantly explaining my name or spelling it out for people.

My own children seem to suit their names perfectly and because the names have been around for hundreds of years people can’t tell their ages just by hearing their names. When I hear the names “Summer, Rainbow and River” I always think they’re children of 1970s “Flower Power” parents. Some children are lumbered with names from TV series and others share names with offspring of famous parents. I think it’s lucky for baby girls that no-one famous has decided Gertrude, Ethel, Myrtle or Gladys are the way to go.

Now, back to my original point. If my next grandchild is named  Sebastian or Clementine will they be flamboyant, spirited and artistic? Would a Bruce or Sam be down to earth, thoughtful and athletic? Stephen or Alice, would they be a good communicator, self assured and academic?

Choosing a name is such an important task for new parents, names come ready loaded with associations and expectations. I guess that’s why some people prefer their nicknames.

Life on Mars

OK, I’m wound up again. Recently there has been great excitement about the possibility of water on Mars. Scientists all over the world can barely contain their enthusiasm about the potential for life in some form, if there is indeed water. Images have been shown at every news broadcast and what do they look like? Well in my opinion they are almost identical to Australian landscapes ravaged by mining. Great cliffs of waste rock and dirt with deep gullies gouged out by the infrequent rainstorms. Not a blade of grass grows.

Our Earth has absolutely wondrous environments, tropical rainforests, vast grasslands, temperate forests and even exciting deserts where, if you look closely, you can see fascinating plants and creatures living in harmony with the tough environment. We have amazing water courses, lakes, rivers and seas teeming with a myriad of different life forms. It seems to me that Mining Companies are being allowed to take this amazing place and turn it into another Martian landscape. Is history just repeating itself? Did man live on Mars long ago?

I really can’t get my head around the fact that at the same time we’re destroying our own amazing environment so many people are excited by what they see on Mars. They obviously don’t know they can see the very same thing if they just take a trip to any one of the mine sites in their own state.

A West Australian mine

A West Australian mine

My Town

I live in Adelaide, South Australia a city of just over 1 million people. People often say it’s so small if you go into the city centre you’re bound to bump into someone you know. The city centre is 1 square mile bordered by parklands on all sides.  Our state “leaders” seem intent on trying to make Adelaide like Sydney or Melbourne but I think that’s a big mistake, small places have their own appeal. I like Adelaide because it’s small for a city, you can travel from one side to the other in about an hour, it’s half an hour west to the beach and the same east to the hills. It suits me, it’s my town.

You can see a larger photo if you click on an image.

Not the 6 o’clock News

During the late 1970s and early 1980s there was a TV programme called, “Not The 9 o’clock News”, it was a comedy sketch programme. I don’t want to plagiarise the show but I do want to bring in, “Not the 6 o’clock News”.

When I was a child I wasn’t interested in reading the paper or listening to the radio to find out what was happening in the wider world, that was for the adults to deal with. One afternoon coming home from school in a crowded bus a newspaper advertising poster with the headline “WORLD WAR 3 IMMINENT” certainly grabbed my attention though. I believed it 100% and was terrified, it had to be true, it was in the newspaper! Happily it didn’t eventuate.

When I was a teenager TV came to our area and it took over news broadcasting for most people.  As technology and communications have improved I’ve seen things from all over the world often happening in real time. Broadcasters choose to report the most dramatic happenings and usually fit them all into a 30 min time slot. What this means for me is a barrage of wars, murders, robberies, flesh eating diseases, catastrophic cyclones, earthquakes, bushfires, droughts or floods causing misery all over the world. Then the ads come on for charities which use this prime time to beg me to PLEASE HELP. The overwhelmingly sad thing is, if I give my last cent it won’t stop the misery and it won’t stop the ad coming on to plead for more.

What’s the solution? For me, since I can’t watch, “Not the 6 o’clock News”,  I’m  choosing not to watch any News, I look on my computer and choose the articles I want to read. I do have a big concern though, about the impact this type of reporting might be having on children. There were terrible things going on in the world when I grew up but I was happily ignorant. I learnt to deal with issues in my little world, a brother who hated me and punched me each time we passed. Tough? Not when compared with a sniper taking potshots at you if you dare peek out your door! Being fed quinces and rice. Yuck? An absolute banquet if there’s no food in your Refugee Village but I didn’t even know those things existed.

How do today’s kids cope when it’s in their faces day in and day out? We don’t want to create a society of people who simply don’t care what happens to others but nor do we want a society of people who are so overwhelmed by world misery that they sink into despair. Maybe someone will produce, “Not the 6 o’clock News”, it will have interesting, varied  segments and every day it will end on a positive note.

Here’s hoping!

Smells That Evoke Memories

Today it’s cold, 16 deg inside until I switch on the Air Conditioner and outside it’s pathetic drizzling rain on and off, not the weather you see on promotional  programmes about  Australia. I decided to light a perfumed oil burner, I find them comforting. The oil I put in today is Patchouli and Sandalwood. Patchouli always reminds me of the 1970s, it goes with bead bangles, folk music and freedom. I know some people say Patchouli incense was burnt to mask the smell of marijuana but not for me.

The perfume of Johnson’s Baby Powder is another comforting smell for me, it’s one product which has kept the same scent over many, many years.

The smell of Lavender always seemed so old fashioned when I was a child, the perfume came in fancy  little bottles, I actually felt sorry for Mum when Dad gave it to her as a present. I was sure she felt it was an old person’s fragrance. “Apple Blossom” appealed to me then and when I first went out working “Tweed” was all the go. I remember the first time I smelt Estee Lauder’s, “Youth Dew” I thought it was very sophisticated but then it seemed to be everywhere. David Jones,  Adelaide shop reeked of it and I found it cloying.

Smells other than perfumes evoke memories. Wet feathers remind me of the time we decided to kill a batch of roosters we’d produced. Killing and cleaning them was horrible and the meat was tough so it was something that happened only once but the smell is locked into my memory.

Another, in my memory, is a smell I couldn’t possibly explain but it was associated with my brother’s old school book covers. I think the material would have been expensive, today’s equivalent would be “Contact” or whatever the brand is you know, with various patterns printed on the material. Maybe it was wax printed, I don’t know, but it had a very distinctive smell. Other smells I remember are chook food in hessian bags, the cellar in my grandparent’s house, spent gunpowder after Guy Fawke’s Night and the strong orange smell put out by Citrus Swallowtail caterpillars when they are threatened. It’s quite intriguing when you become aware of a familiar smell from the past and then try to work out its significance.

Time now to top up the Patchouli and Sandalwood, the Air Conditioner is on but it has no smell and no history.

Shame you can't smell it.

Shame you can’t smell it.

In My Day ……..  

 

Weren’t those words enough to make you switch off completely when you were a kid?  A lecture always seemed to follow.  I don’t say them to my grandkids but I certainly think them!

 

We are very lucky to live in a suburb just 20 mins by train from the centre of Adelaide, capital of South Australia but if you looked out our front windows you could think you were living in bush.  The area is hilly with gullies separating the winding roads.  My children walked probably about 500 metres to the little local school of about 120 children.  They walked less than 100 metres up our road which is very narrow with no footpaths to the fenced off path beside the railway line where they’d meet up with friends coming from other directions.

 

Times have changed. Now, each morning,  “The mummy run” begins.  Not “Yummy Mummies” running along the railway path with little children in Jogging Strollers but a steady stream of cars heading to the school.  Council have had to ban parking on one side of the road because there was no way any emergency vehicles could have made it through but even so it’s a place to avoid for at least an hour morning and afternoon.

 

Why is it necessary for parents to drive their children to school?  This is not a crime ridden area.  I know some people believe there are now paedophiles waiting to pounce on any unaccompanied children but I think there have always been unpleasant people around.  Children need to learn how to deal with unexpected situations to keep themselves safe whether it’s on the road or interacting with people and they can’t learn to do that if they are always closeted in a car with an adult taking all responsibility.

 

I guess it’s indisputable, I’m now a boring old fart who says, “In my day ……..”