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Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Backyard fun

The origin of our photo prompt this week is a rather grim subject, depicting backyards in inner Sydney in 1900, where slum-like conditions and the escape of rats from ships that had arrived at the wharves combined to cause an outbreak of bubonic plague in the area, resulting in the deaths of over 500 people in Sydney and Brisbane. I see there are other photographs on the web site of State Records New South Wales, including one showing men cleaning an infected backyard, but I think I'd rather focus on happier scenes in backyards I've known over the years, primarily as recorded in my mother's albums.

It's amazing how often fences dividing off neighbouring properties seem to feature either as intentional or incidental backdrops for family photos.

The first snap is of my parents Ian and Jean and a couple of their friends with their respective babies, squatting down in a not particularly scenic backyard in England, possibly in Cambridge, in 1954. Of course these days the background could be cropped out, but that wasn't an option back then. Either it was foggy English weather, or the photograph came out that way, but despite that they make a nice little group.

Our family moved from New Zealand to Australia in 1956, and the next two photos show my brother and myself in the backyard of the first home we rented in Turner ACT, where my father Ian had taken up a position as a research scientist with the CSIRO, a national research body. In the first shot we've made use of the fence as a ledge for our dolls, and in the second one I look rather mischievous, with a funny old doll I loved called Bane - no fence to be seen here, but the washing in full view proves it was definitely in the backyard.

 Ian making good use of the new saw he'd received as a birthday present. He may or may not have chopped up all that wood beside the fence, but no doubt he stacked it up in a tidy pile.

We moved to another house for a short time, and here I am helping the boy next door to get back home, but I'm not too sure that he would have succeeded - the step ladder and my assistance may not have quite got him over the top.  It would probably have been easier to climb over  from his side, as there would have been horizontal rails you could use for  footholds. No harm trying though!

In 1958 my parents moved into a government house in the new suburb of O'Connor, which they were able to buy a few years later - although in Canberra all land is actually subject to a 99 year lease from the government, so you don't actually own the property outright. This was the backyard we grew up in, and here's a selection of shots over the years up until 1965, when we moved to a bigger home 'up the hill' in the same suburb.

My brother looks like he was living life rather dangerously here! Note the Hills Hoist ( iconic Australian designed rotary clothes line) in the background - we were strongly discouraged from swinging around on it!

My sister and her doll Mary Ann, with the girls' cubby house in the background. There was a sandpit in front of it, and I remember that little window as being very good for puppet shows.

Backyard cricket players

Long hot summers spent with paddling pool friends

Posing outside my brother's cubby, which in its past life was a chook house. I only have a hazy memory of  chickens roosting inside.

I think this open fence may  have been there to deter the kids from running around Ian's domain, the vegetable garden. I remember that path hopping with grasshoppers in the summer months. This blurry snap shows Granddad Oliver Cruickshank, also a keen gardener, visiting us from NZ. Here's an earlier photo of him in the late 1940s, keenly weeding his own lawn, which is presumably around the back, from the look of whatever has been thrown into the garden behind him.

Not to be outdone, here's a matching snap of my other grandfather Jack Morrison, doing the same thing in his Christchurch backyard too.

On a family trip back to NZ in 1965 we visited some friends who kept a pet sheep in their little backyard - we kids have climbed the fence, as if we weren't too sure if it was friendly. They lived in the country and had other sheep, but this one was hand raised, and may even have been allowed inside!

Around fifty years and numerous backyards and photos later, and here's a corner of our present small backyard, quite compact yet practical, quiet and pleasantly private, thanks to reasonably high fences, well-established trees and other greenery. It's easy to forget we live within a block of a major highway and busy railway station.

A tawny frogmouth visited recently, and spent a morning perching on our back fence

Here is a backyard view from the loft window of one daughter and son-in-law's London terrace. Backyards here are very narrow, and with low fences there's not a lot of privacy from neighbours here, either on the ground or from up above. Naked sunbathing would not be a good idea! There's a den of foxes in behind there who serenade residents with their nightly mating shrieks.

Contrast the view from the back verandah of our other daughter and son-in-law's 40 acre property in country Victoria, the boundary of which extends out to the distant tree line. 

Late final extra,7.3.2014   - I just remembered this lovely colourful  'fence behind a fence' that we spotted while cycling beside the Main river in Germany a few years ago:

My apologies for including so many photographs, but I do like to tell a family story through them, rather than just concentrating on one or two pictures.

For more glimpses into other Sepians' backyards, take a peek here