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Friday, 16 December 2016

First Christmas at Turramurra

When Sepia Saturday had this photo prompt a couple of years ago, I included photographs of family meals for Christmas 1988 with both sets of grandparents, who then lived in Canberra. You can read my previous blog here.
The following year my parents retired to Wamberal on the NSW Central Coast, about an hour north of Turramurra, the Sydney suburb where we lived. In the same year we also moved from a small house to a more spacious one, but still in Turramurra, and we decided that it was about time we stayed home and had our own Christmas dinner in our 'new' home. The photo below shows my parents, the children and me sitting around our newly purchased dining table for Christmas dinner, 1989. Our two younger children blowing party horns aren't sitting on dining chairs, perhaps because we couldn't trust them not to spill any food on the good chairs, or perhaps because they didn't like the feel of the upholstered seats on their bare legs. I think this must have been the first time I cooked a turkey, as up until then we had always spent Christmas at the home of one set of parents or the other.  In the second photo the family is downstairs posing with the Christmas tree.

The Christmas holiday season of 1989 was marred for many people by the fact that just three days later on December 28, the city of Newcastle and surrounding areas were rocked by a strong earthquake. Sadly thirteen people lost their lives and many more were injured and/or lost their homes as a result of the widespread damage caused by the quake. We were getting ready to drive to my parents' place when we heard a loud noise, but we did not realise what it was until we heard the news later that day. My parents were already back at their home in Wamberal, which is about an hour south of Newcastle. Unbeknownst to both us and them, their house had suffered serious structural damage to its foundations which became worse over the years but was not immediately apparent at the time. My father died in 2000 and it was not until my mother decided to sell in 2005 that the house was assessed as being in a precarious state and requiring extensive repairs. Consequently she was forced to sell at a price well below market value. The house now looks very different, having been  purchased by builders who were able to stabilize it and give it a complete makeover. 
Out of interest, a search of newspaper articles on the Trove website revealed that earthquakes have been experienced in the Newcastle area well before 1989. One report dated 1842 refers to 4 shocks having been experienced since August 1837. You can read the relevant article here.


We are flying up to Newcastle today, from where we'll drive to our beach unit and spend a few days with our daughter and family who are visiting from London. Bush fires rather than earthquakes are more of a potential hazard these days, but fingers crossed! We then return together to Melbourne for a rare full family Christmas gathering at home with all our children and their families, and I hope our two younger grandchildren will be able to make use of these bibs that I made for our younger daughter back in 1988. I'm practically the same age now as my mother was in 1989 and whilst my parents are no longer with us, my 91 year old mother-in-law will be coming and has made us a lovely Christmas pudding.

Best Wishes to all fellow Sepians! Here's our Christmas tree, suitably protected from inquisitive toddlers, I hope!

And finally, you might enjoy seeing this Gingerbread creation in the window of a local bakery, which will be donated to a children's charity or hospital. Santa is motorized and climbs up and down his ladder, although he never actually delivers. The sign says it took 60 hours of work, 50 kg of gingerbread, 15 kg of icing sugar, 5 pastry chefs ... and a partridge in a pear tree!

Thursday, 8 December 2016

No Christmas snow men or women here!

This week's Sepia Saturday photo prompt shows a couple who have apparently sculpted an attractive female snow maiden wearing a rather less than attractive two piece costume. Christmas in Australia falls in summer and therefore we normally expect to enjoy warm to hot weather. So far here in Melbourne we have only had a few isolated days of heat this summer, and in fact the forecast tonight mentioned the chance of snow showers on the ranges, but snow at Christmas anywhere in Australia is nevertheless a pretty rare occurrence. I've previously posted the few photos I have of winter snowmen here in an earlier blog.

 So instead I thought I would include a couple of photographs of sandy figures, which are more relevant than snowmen are to an Australian Christmas. We usually spend at least part of our Christmas summer break at the beach, and the first photo shows our youngest daughter aged 3 in 1990, buried up to her neck in sand, with exaggerated creations for arms and feet. 

The second photo is one I took a few years later at the San Diego Zoo in December 1996, when we took the children for a family driving holiday in the USA visiting San Diego, Arizona, Utah and Nevada before returning to LA and of course Disneyland.  This professionally sculpted lady hippo was adorned with a Christmas garland in honour of the festive season. I wonder what the real hippos in their nearby enclosure thought of her.

There was no snow to be seen in San Diego, but we did come across some of the white stuff in both the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Park, where the thousands of strangely shaped natural pinnacle type structures called hoodoos were surrounded by tinged with drifts of white. With a little imagination, they could look like crowds of standing figures. The local Native American tribe believes the hoodoos were once the ancient Legend People, who were turned to stone because they had abused the land and its resources. Here are a few photos in both black and white and in colour, in which the snow stands out more clearly.


We'll be up at the beach for a few days next week, so just in case I don't manage to fit in another blog before we go, here's wishing everyone a very merry Christmas and happy holiday season from Turner Street, where one of our neighbours sneaked out in the dark of night last week and decorated all of the fifty plus plane trees that line the street. Quite an impressive effort which must have taken quite a while to complete and would have required many metres of red ribboning fabric! These big trees provide us with a lovely shady canopy in summer but they also make for lots of exercise when we have to sweep up enormous and seemingly endless piles of fallen leaves in autumn.


For more blogs on this snowy theme, or not, just click and go toSepia Saturday #347

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Counting down the days

The prompt for this week's Sepia Saturday # 346 is an old German Adventskalender, pictured below. Although I have had these calendars in the past, both as a child and as a parent, I don't have any photographs or special memories of them.  

I was looking in one of my mother's scrapbooks for some alternative source of inspiration and right at the end of this particular book was this Christmas card sent to us by my mother's Auntie Maud. I imagine she felt it was very appropriate, because my parents and I were just returning to New Zealand by sea after a year in the UK. I know my mother suffered greatly from sea sickness and the 5 week voyage from London must have seemed interminable, especially with a toddler to cope with, so no doubt she was counting down the days to our safe arrival in Auckland on 1 January 1955.  Of course we weren't battling the high seas aboard a clipper ship like the one pictured on the card, but were passengers on the RMS Rangitiki, which was in fact named after a clipper ship of the same name, as you can see on a site that gives an interesting history of the Rangitiki and her sisters. One of those sister ships was the Rangitata, which had taken us over to England just over a year earlier.  There's a passenger account on that site of the first post war voyage of the Rangitiki in 1948, in which its passengers and crew survived both a week-long hurricane and a heat wave. I certainly hope we did not have to endure anything quite like that in 1954.  I was only just two at the time and on one occasion I was discovered by a purser wandering the decks, having somehow escaped from our cabin in the middle of the night!  I confess to having mentioned this in a previous blog about the voyage, which you can read here.

Annie Emily Maud Morrison, aka Auntie Maud, was a sister of  my grandfather Jack Morrison. She was a single lady who was a postmistress for all her working life and I think she was probably a favourite aunt for my mother. Here she is with my baby brother, who was born some 9 months after we returned to NZ.

Of course other friends and family members welcomed us back home too, as shown in these telegrams from my mother's friend Brenda, and my paternal grandmother Myrtle Cruickshank nee Byles. She and my grandfather Oliver Cruickshank lived at 6 Park St Rangiora.

The final leg of our trip was a flight from Auckland down to Christchurch on 1 January 1955 with what was then the New Zealand National Airways Corporation, aboard the RMA Papango. It's interesting to see what flight information was provided to passengers back in the days when there were no video screens to look at. The handout included a request to pass the following sheet on to the next passenger promptly, but either my mother did not comply with this request or perhaps she picked up a couple of spare sheets at the end of the flight. Kaikoura which is mentioned is where extensive damage has very recently been suffered as a result of a major earthquake. Harewood is the suburb in which the Christchurch airport is located. Unfortunately it doesn't reveal how long the flight was expected to take in total. 

To see a photograph of the RMA Papango, click this link, which I found on a forum site called The Wings Over New Zealand Aviation Forum. The site includes a detailed history of the Papango, which was a DC-3C.  Like the ship Rangitiki, the Papango had been employed in war service during World War 2.

 We were home safe at last, although in fact it was to be only about sixteen months later that my father accepted a position as a research scientist in Canberra and we left NZ for good. Myrtle, Maud and the rest of our Cruickshank and Morrison families were not happy!

Now we are counting down the days until the arrival of our London family, who are coming to spend Christmas with us. They are flying, not sailing, but with a new baby and a toddler it may well seem like a very long 24 hours, but will be worth it I'm sure.

To read more blogs linked to Sepia Saturday #346. click here.