Google+ Followers

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Not exactly riveting ...

The prompt for Sepia Saturday #360 features a lady happily brandishing a drill. She was in fact working on a dive bomber in Tennessee during World War 2. 

The following photograph is the only one I seem to have showing anyone in our family doing anything vaguely similar, ie manual work. This is not to say that no such work was ever done, simply that no one thought to take photographs of people doing it.  It was late 1977 and my father Ian was poised on a ladder with probably a screw or nail in hand, and us acting as his assistants, intent on putting together a kit shed for the back garden of our freshly built first home in what was then a new Canberra suburb called Kaleen. There are a couple of other photographs of the house at the end of an earlier post here. At this stage there were no dividing fences, as ours was the first house on the block. There was also no grass because we hadn't prepared the ground for sewing it yet, so I doubt whether we had a mower to put in the shed, but we did have a wheelbarrow and other tools that needed to be kept safe.

Above  Roger is attacking the load of topsoil we had delivered and below I am rolling it out.  Funnily enough I'm even wearing a headscarf here, like the lady in the photo prompt above.

By the following year the grass had grown, although it wasn't exactly lush, and despite a hot summer we had managed to grow some vegetables. Here is Roger holding a bucket of potatoes and about to do some mowing.

Here I am showing off some of the fruits of our labours. Those paving stones I was sitting on were soon to be laid all around the verandah, a slow, painstaking job that took a number of weekends to complete, but no photos of the work in progress. I was busy supplying the worker with cold drinks!

A little later Roger and his father Bob also built a brick carport beside the house. This also took a couple of weekends of hard work but unfortunately no photographs seem to have been taken.  You can see from this recent photograph on Googlemaps that the carport is still standing solidly, some forty years later.  I think that some of the larger trees seen in the front garden may also have been planted by us.


As things turned out, we decided to move from Canberra to Sydney in 1980 so after all that work we only lived here for under 3 years. I still have fond memories of our Kaleen home but overall don't regret leaving Canberra.

Time to down tools for lunch, but for more riveting posts, have a look at Sepia Saturday #360

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Well Hello Dolly!

This week's photo prompt shows Louis Armstrong looking into the mirror at his dressing table. I've previously shown the few mirror photographs I have, so instead I looked up Louis's biography for possible inspiration, and was reminded that one of his most well-known songs was Hello Dolly, which pushed the Beatles off the top of the charts in 1964. Of course I know Louis wasn't singing about toy dolls, but it does provide a segue to that subject, particularly as I've recently been knitting and sewing clothes for my granddaughters' 'babies'.

Here are a few dolly photographs, both old and new.

Above is yours truly and friends at home in Cambridge in 1954. The doll on the left was my favourite cuddly companion, rather strangely called Bane for some long forgotten reason, but perhaps simply because I couldn't  pronounce Baby at the time. I no longer have Bane because sadly she deteriorated over the years, eventually looking like she had black stubble on her face, which wasn't particularly attractive in a female doll. 

I don't recall the other two dolls but I think the little one next to Bane is the sailor doll pictured below on the right in the photograph I took this morning after locating the pair up in the top of the wardrobe. He and his friend were my mother's rather than mine, and I don't know anything about their history, but they might have been bought aboard ship on our voyage from NZ to the UK in 1953. On his hat it says Sea Princess, and on the other doll's hat is RMS Mauritania. I haven't researched either of those two ships, but the ship aboard which we sailed to the United Kingdom was the Rangitata.

'Hello Sailor' would probably be more appropriate for these two fellows. I might even say they are 'lookin' swell' as the song goes. Somewhat faded but in pretty good condition for their age and after spending a long time up in the wardrobe (not to say closet). Enough said.

The next photo is recent but the doll herself is as old as the sailor figures. Her name is Kaye and she is a hard plastic Pedigree doll, given to me in 1954 by one of the mothers of the men who were killed along with my uncle Ken when the plane he was flying was shot down over Wuppertal Germany in June 1943. My mother visited all the men's families during the year we spent in the UK. Kaye lives up in the wardrobe too, and when I got her down recently to show my visiting English granddaughter, I discovered that she was in need of a little TLC, for example some new internal elastic to connect her head and limbs. Her clothes were also rather moth-eaten, so I've since repaired them as best I can, with new bootees, new trimming on her dress and coat and new ribbons so she looks much better now. I've previously shown a photo from about 1958 here that includes Kaye, second from left, and Bane, fifth doll from left. 

Here is Kaye now, 'still glowin', 'still goin' strong', in her new bootees and mended layette, but no new hair I'm sorry to say.
Moving on to 1964, when 'Hello Dolly' hit the charts, and here is my sister Louisa with her doll family. I know she still has the large doll wearing a bonnet whose name is Mary Anne, and she may also still have that teddy bear.


Although our two girls weren't great fans of dolls, you can see a photo previously posted of them with cabbage patch dolls here.

To the present day:

Above is our little Londoner Isabelle, aka Jeanie after her great grandmother Jean, with her baby Lucy, dressed in matching outfits by yours truly, while below is her little Australian cousin Lucy, currently inseparable from her doll Jeanie that I gave her for her birthday.


Time to say goodbye rather than hello, but for more blogs that may or may not be linked in some way to the prompt image, go to Sepia Saturday #359

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Argonauts Row, Row, Row!

The Sepia Saturday #358 prompt for 11 March 2017 shows a couple listening to weather reports on the radio in Florida, and is dated 10 November 1950.   I couldn't think of anything similar to write about until now, so my post is rather late I'm afraid.  I don't have any photographs of family members listening to the radio, but in the early 1960s I was an avid listener to what was called the Children's Hour, a session that was to be heard at 5 pm, 6 nights a week on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The clip below gives a few extracts from the show, including the rousing opening and closing theme songs. Then there's a contribution from a member referring to a double-exposed photograph. When I listen to the clip it all comes back and I can remember coming inside, sitting by the radio, listening intently and singing along. I was a member of the Argonauts Club and couldn't miss a show, just in case one of my contributions was read out on air, which it very occasionally was. The show introduced Australian children to the delights of art and literature, as well as running an amusing serial called "The Muddle-headed Wombat" by Ruth Park. 

My Certificate of  Membership of the Argonauts Club. My membership name and number was Timaeus 37.

My membership badge, which I seem to have defaced by colouring green in at some stage, but at least I still have it

Order of the Dragon's Tooth, award for reaching 150 points for member contributions. I was sad to never quite reach the higher award of Golden Fleece (400 points) or the ultimate Golden Fleece and Bar, (600 points).

My Dragon's Tooth badge

One of the books I received as a prize for a attaining a certain number of points for my written contributions to the Argonauts Club

Inside the book

No photographs of  me listening to the radio, but here I am in a school photograph aged about 7, taken in the school library, and I imagine I looked pretty similar at home around 5 pm every night except Sundays, from about 1960 to 1968, although I probably had changed out of my school uniform before sitting down to listen. My mother encouraged me to listen and contribute. No television back then, so if you missed an episode that was too bad, especially as that just might have been the one in which your letter was read out or your points tally rated a mention. 

The Argonauts Club aired from 1933 until the the early 1970s and was very popular. Quite a few of its members went on to become prominent in Australian public life, for example as writers, academics, journalists, actors or politicians.  You can read more about the Club and see a list of famous members here in Wikipedia.  My only claim to fame is that much later in the 1990s we lived next door to one of those mentioned, namely Mike Carlton, well-known in Australia as a broadcaster and commentator. Of course we never discussed our common childhood history as Argonauts. 

Friday, 3 March 2017

Mona and her beloved cat

This week's prompt photograph shows a girl, a dog and a lady who could perhaps be her mother or her grandmother.

We've had pets as a topic previously and I posted the photo below then, but I feel it's worthwhile showing it again because it is a good match, despite the animal being a cat rather than a dog and there being no lady with the girl in my photograph, who is my grandmother Mona Forbes. She was 9 years old so the photograph must have been taken around 1906. It's the only photograph I have of her as a child. Mona was in her mid-fifties by the time I was born, and I did not know her very well because we left the country when I was 3 and she died before I was 20. I really wish Mona's mother Jane Isabella had been standing there with her as in the prompt photograph, as I have very few photographs of her either, and none of her as a young woman.

I mentioned in my post last week that Mona attended the School of Art in Christchurch New Zealand but did not include any of examples of her work, so linking back to that theme, here is a photo of a drawing Mona did whilst a student at the school in 1913.

 It would be nice to think that the subject might have been Mona's older brother John Middleton Forbes, aka Jack, in contemplative mode, before he embarked for service with the Royal Engineers Unit of the NZ Expeditionary Force in 1914, but I cannot be sure of that. It may simply have been a drawing from a life model posing at the art school. I've found a couple of photographs on the Christchurch City Libraries web site, showing art classes taking place at the school in 1910, just a few years before Mona studied there. The class looks to be quite crowded, and according to the web site the school had an enrolment of some 400 students.

Mona did not continue with her art because following her marriage to John Morrison in 1921 she became very busy looking after their six children, but son Graeme inherited Mona's artistic talent and went on to become a commercial artist. It was also Graeme who was responsible for bringing home various stray animals that the family adopted as pets, even including an ex-racehorse at one stage, which famously broke free and headed straight for familiar ground at the nearby Addington racecourse.

For more blogs on various topics that possibly include children, pets, ladies, fancy hats and perhaps even fences, visit Sepia Saturday #357

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Postcard from an artist

This week's photo prompt shows a group of people painting by the waterfront. 

 We have sometimes come across people painting 'en plein air' and I thought I might possibly have had a photograph somewhere that showed them in the background, but it seems not, so instead I've included this postcard that I found a couple of years ago at a store that was selling antiques, bric-a-brac and curiosities. On the front is a pen sketch by Leonardo da Vinci entitled "Study of flowing water".The original of this work is part of The Royal Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

What I am more interested in is the writer's note on the back, because the author is the well-known Australian painter Clifton Pugh, 1924-1990, writing from London to his friend Marie back in Arthur's Creek, Victoria Australia. She was the widow of a prominent Australian writer but I won't identify her further as she may still be with us, as is Pugh's third wife Judith. 


"Hello, some good news - the painting 
of Prince Phillip is going well. I'm
 painting in the grand Reception room of Windsor Castle. I did a
 portrait of Judith in the gilded
 air, and when Phillip saw it,
 it was the one he wanted 
so Judith is now "in the possession
 of", along with two landscapes
 of mine that he has had 
for some time. 
Love from us,

I can picture Clifton sitting there with his easel and painting equipment in those grand surroundings. He had previously painted portraits of many famous Australians. It appears that HRH Prince Phillip did not keep the painting, as it is now held in the art gallery of Benalla, a Victorian country town a couple of hours north of Melbourne. Unfortunately there's no image online, and Benalla is a bit too far for me to go check it out specially, although next time we're passing that way I may stop for a look, and perhaps if it is on view, I might offer the postcard to the gallery.

You can read an article written by Judith Pugh about Clifton here  on the Australian National Portrait Gallery web site.  The piece is illustrated by a painting of Judith in 1976, which may well be the one referred to as being 'in the gilded air' by Clifton in his postcard to Marie.  Another portrait included with the piece is that of the late Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt, with whom, according to Judith, Clifton was to have gone skin diving on the day that Holt mysteriously disappeared. Pugh had cancelled the arrangement because it was his birthday and a birthday lunch was planned. In a blog last year I wrote about the mysterious death of Harold Holt on 17 December 1967.  If Clifton had not cancelled, perhaps the tragedy that unfolded that day might not have occurred.

 I've written previously  about my uncle Graeme Morrison and my distant cousin John Petrie who were both artists, and have also made mention of my grandmother Mona Forbes who attended art school in Christchurch NZ. Another distant cousin Charlotte Petrie studied at the Slade School of Art on London in the 1920s.  Here is an article about Miss Petrie's impressions of the Slade School, published after her return to NZ. We have one of her paintings.
Sunset on the Estuary at Invercargill, by Charlotte Petrie

 Below is the only photo I can offer of anyone actually painting at an easel, or in this case a blackboard. It shows one of our young sons and was taken back in 1984. Unfortunately I can't tell you that he went on to show any inherited artistic talent, but I'm sure he enjoyed himself at the time!

For more blogs about artists at work or at play, visit Sepia Saturday #356

Postscript: Years ago I did a photography class at a centre where a life drawing class was taking place at the same time, and we had to walk around the artists to get to the darkroom. Unfortunately we were not permitted to photograph the artists and their models as we passed by. I expect it was the models rather than the artists who didn't want to be photographed.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Feeding the pigeons?

My previous short pictorial post was added very, very late and consquently I don't know that anyone has even read it (,  but this week I'm getting in fairly early with what I think is a pretty good match for the prompt. 

Taken by my mother, the snap below shows yours truly in September 1954. My mother's caption for the photo is "Feeding the pigeons? In Trafalgar Square".  I'm not sure whether I had bread, cake or the corn that could be bought in the Square at that time, as in the prompt photograph, but I guess I was feeding myself as well as, or perhaps instead of the pigeons. Well I was only 21 months old at the time! As I've mentioned before, my parents and I were in the United Kingdom for a year while my father was studying in Cambridge under a research fellowship funded by the Nuffield Foundation. 

Short and sweet, as I was back then. I see that in 2000 pigeons in Trafalgar Square were declared to be pests because of the mess they make and the perceived health hazard. A group called Save the Pigeons was then formed to save, protect and continue feeding them. 
Feeding native birds in your own garden is not recommended either, because it isn't healthy for them and it can result in their becoming reliant on handouts rather than foraging for natural food. We are advised instead to plant native plants that will provide them with both food and habitat. You can read more about this here.

 For more blogs that may or may not be about feeding pigeons, click here

We went for a wander in Yarra Bend Park this morning and duck food was for sale at the Boatshed kiosk. The ducks started waddling hopefully towards us but we didn't buy any food. I sincerely hope that it whatever I was feeding the pigeons was suitable for human consumption, unlike these packets of duck food.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Pearly shells

Here is a very, very late addition to Sepia Saturday #354. The prompt photo brings to mind the tongue twister "She sells sea shells by the sea shore", which as I recently discovered was inspired by Mary Anning, the fossil collector, dealer and paleontologist from Lyme Regis in Dorset, who died almost 170 years ago, aged only 47. Mary began collecting as a young  girl and made many important marine fossil discoveries in her relatively short life. She didn't receive a great deal of credit for her achievements back then but they have been recognised since. You can read more about her here using this link to the Lyme Regis Museum.

Mary Anning

I don't have any shop photographs that I haven't already posted, but I thought people might like to see some photos of my own small shell collection. I didn't know much about identifying the different types of shells, I just liked their beauty and pretty colours, their patterns and symmetry, and I still do. They include for example cowries, scallops (the fan shaped shells), paua shell, sea urchins, cones, conches and horns.

 I've had some of these shells since collecting them as a child on the beaches of southern NSW, during our annual family camping holidays.


This large mother of pearl shell underneath the other three was given to me by my sister back in the days when she and her husband sailed around the Pacific islands en route from California to New Zealand in their small wooden boat. 

 I'm not sure where I found the fossil that looks like the imprint of two shells, but it may have come from a site at Pialligo near the Canberra airport, where fossil hunting and collecting is probably no longer possible.

I know some beaches these days have notices saying that collecting shells is not allowed, but hopefully this is not the case everywhere, and that shell collecting remains a simple pleasure for children fossicking along the shore line.