Sunday, July 31, 2011

All in a row

I liked this row of old buildings at Cassilis a little down the road from the Royal Hotel.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Royal Hotel, Cassilis
That was a detour worth taking.  Anew Royal Hotel to add to the collection.

Friday, July 29, 2011


Moving on we get closer to the coast into the Upper Hunter valley.  The hills disappear and the rain comes back. We are taking a little detour to the town of Cassilis because I have not visited it before and as you know I like little country towns.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sunny skies

Our strategy paid off, look at the sunshine.  The people of Sydney and the mountains had a soggy weekend and we were enjoying crisp sunny weather.  This is the Catholic church in Mudgee, not hidden   by the bare winter trees.   We stopped at Mudgee for a bite to eat before moving into some new territory.

Actually this was the second weekend in a row we had been in Mudgee. The previous weekend we went to the Farm Field Day which is quite a big event and genuinely rural. While I enjoyed it I was not having a very good photographic time so I doubt I will be showing the shots unless I run dry ... this trip was more exciting.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

To the lake

Here we are heading down to Lake Windemere which I have shown you quite often.  There are also lots of nice hills in this part of the world.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


This one was over the road from the photo I was really taking but I like it a lot, it speaks to the country we were driving through.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rocky outcrops

I always like the rocky outcrops along the road. There are quite a lot around here.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Winter Wayfaring

Railway station, Capertee

After a long wet, cold week in the mountains we wanted respite from the climate so went on a Winter Wayfaring weekend to the west where the persistent rain wasn't reaching and the daytime temperatures warmer.

It was so great to be out and about again with no other objective than to see and capture images of places new and familiar.  Over the next couple of weeks I will show you what I found -- you can expect to see old favourites like abandoned buildings, country lines,  small towns, frosty mornings and a new Royal Hotel.

Determined to get my camera shutter going early on the trip we diverted off the main road to grab a shot of Capertee Railway station which I have spied many times through the trees but never taken the time to explore. Like most of the stations on this line it is closed (in the case well boarded up) but this part of the line is still active for coal and cement trains.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Royal Contribution

Royal Hotel, Birdsville
Contributed by Gordon Smith

I received this photo in my in-box today. Isn't it a ripper.  I am so jealous that is it not one of my own shots and will definitely go to Birdsville some day before this Royal falls down. 

Gordon is doing a terrific series of his outback adventures at the moment and I always enjoy his bushwalks. I encourage you to go lookANDsee for  yourself.     

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Cotter 2. of 2

Yep. I like this place. I've got a photo of me on our honeymoon relaxing on those river stones.  And I've got a whole jar of polished stones that we collected from one of these river beds many years ago and tumbled until they shone. The memories are good.

That's the end of this series.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Cotter 1 of 2

We ended our drive at The Cotter.  The dam on the Cotter River was built to provide drinking water for the  new city.  A popular picnic area is located at the base of the dam wall.  I like this spot with its extensive plantings of exotic trees beside the clear stream.

Monday, July 18, 2011


We dropped into the cafe at the Tidbinbilla tracking station for lunch.  This and nearby Honeysuckle Creek played a part in the moon landing in the 1960s.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Canberra countyside

What a relief to be away from the suburbs.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Canberra is famous for its extensive plantings of exotic trees which means it puts on a terrific Autumn colour display but by this time of year are bare and wintery.  It's a chilly place with the mountains often being snow capped in Winter.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Blue Hills

While Canberra is a very liveable city and I enjoyed my years there I am no fan of suburbia and Canberra is just that -- neat, ever so neat suburbia.   With a day to spend I just wanted to get out of there and head towards the mountains that form such a delightful frame to the horizon of the city.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Govie houses

Our old home

The government needed to accommodate the burgeoning population so had a public housing plan where whole suburbs of near identical houses were built and rented to the public servants they were trying to lure into the new city.  These government houses were sold at a low price to the tenants and once sold were known as ex-govies.    Mostly they were modest brick veneer homes but in the older suburbs they were timber.

We owned an ex-govie in O'Conner - one of the timber variety and decided to pop by and see how it was looking today.  It was rendered and extended and looking quite swish and the neighbour even swisher - very hard to imagine the humble timber home that forms their bones.

He must be nuts having a front yard like that.  This is a street lined with oak trees!

Despite all the changes, some things don't change.  On the other side, the migrant neighbours with the huge vege garden still have their ugly letter box. In fact, that was how we located the house.

Just shows JM.  We do tiles in Australia too.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


View of Canberra City from War Memorial

Whew we are outside the War Memorial at last.

Canberra is odd place, a planned city built from scratch to be the nations capital.  The foundation stone was laid in the middle of sheep paddock in 1913 but with wars and the depression intervening things didn't move along very fast until the late 1950s.  They started to transfer government departments there in the 1960s.

I joined the influx of young graduates moving in and filling up government hostels in the 1970s, arriving there in 1974 and staying around 10 years.  In those days, every one had come from somewhere else and were planning to return to that somewhere else.

In 1974 the population was 180,000 today it is 360,000.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A wish

Then we came to the listings for Dad's old squadron and we all stopped while he bent down to read the names. He straightened up and said in a odd thick voice, "I never knew what happened to some of those men."

Dismayed I looked up at the tears in his eyes. I'd never seen my father cry. In my childish way I understood that Dad had a very important wish ... that it should never happen again.

In the classroom I argued, "We have to remember so we don't forget."

Sadly the wars go on. This photo was taken at the end of the hall where names are still being added today.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Eternal flame

Eternal Flame in Pool of Reflection

As we strolled along beside the bronze wall plates the names didn't move me.

"Look there's money in the pool", I yelled as I hung over the wall looking into the shallow water of the reflecting pool.

"Get down," said Mum

"Can I have a penny so I can make a wish?"

"Shhhh," said Mum, "Don't be noisy. People come here to remember all these people who died."

Reluctantly, I quietened down.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Thousands upon thousands

Names of the fallen.

Thinking back to my childhood I now realise that the war years were as close to our parents as my youthful years are to me today. In my mind my recollection of my uni days are close and clear. I have a new appreciation of why the people and memories of the war seemed so present during the childhood of my generation though we ourselves had no proper comprehension of it.

In the classroom debate I supported the continuation of Anzac Day with its mix of remembrance and mateship. I was still young and inexperienced. I didn't understand death, or fear, or freedom, or the adult fixation wiht the communist threat. However, I did understand that this day was important to Mum and Dad amd many other's like them.

I particularly remembered going to the War Memorial in Canberra as a little girl and seeing the thousands and thousands of names mounted on the walls underneath the sandstone arches flanking the pool of remembrance.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


War Memorial Forecourt
After the service, Mum and Dad went to the luncheon for ex-servicemen and women held at the CWA rest rooms.  Every year Dad came home saying things like "They should call him Moses, whenever he opens his mouth the bull rushes." it seems the war that some men fought became more glorious with every passing glass.

"It was the beer talking," Mum said.

While Mum and Dad were at the luncheon we children headed for the supper room at the local dance hall where the RSL Women's Auxiliary put on a lunch for the children of returned servicemen. What a feast! The table was groaning with sandwiches and cakes, more than the collective appetite of a vast collection of offspring, who each stuffed themselves -- being careful to give only the mock chicken sandwiches a miss. This was all washed down with bottle after bottle of soft drink.  If we had been ex-servicemen on the grog, we would certainly been hanging onto each other, singing boisterous songs and falling into the gutter on the way home.  We were full.

Instead, we clasped our stretched tummies and walked soberly down the street to home.  The house was unusually quiet with both Mum and Dad not yet back.  Despite our lunchtime revelling, a reverence still clung to our normally high spirits. To us it felt like a Sunday, and it didn't seem right to go to the pool or pull out our sewing, or to busy ourselves with work,

Friday, July 8, 2011


Hall of Memories

We all took part in the Anzac Day march. The diggers led the parade. The school, scouts and other local groups followed. We stood up straight and concentrated hard to march in step to the muffled beat of the drum and the mournful wail of the bagpipes. None of us matched the heel snapping precision of the men in front who knew exactly what to do when the leader of the parade called out in a deep Sergeant Major's voice "paraaaaaade quick march", "squaaaad halt" and so forth.

A sparse group of mothers wearing Sunday hats with babies in strollers lined the street beside the shops. Blue ribbons sold by the men from the RSL were pinned to their floral frocks. They clapped gloved hands as we passed.

The ranks of marchers came to an organised halt at the marble monument and the townsfolk clustered around us. Together we followed the order of service and sang the dirge-like hymns. I watched the soft ooze of tears in the eyes of widows, mothers, daughters and sisters as they read the names of the fallen. I didn't know the soldiers but their surnames were familiar.

As the man at the microphone read the Ode to Remembrance, I stared at the marble soldier on top the monument, a soldier frozen in time, and felt sad inside.

"Paraaade diiiismised," the parade sergeant called.  The men put their hats back on and clustered in small groups. We children scampered over to the monument and hung over the chain fence looking at the floral wreaths -- crosses studded with chrysanthemums, bouquets of roses picked from the garden that morning, books for the town library wrapped in brown paper with a posy of mixed flowers on top and the circles of blood red paper poppies with a purple "Lest We Forget" sash splashed across.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


At the Rats of Tobruk Exhibition
Dad's DFM (Distinguished Flying Medal) was the round silver medal with the purple and white striped ribbon.  Mum said this was a very special medal, more special than his star medals and they were all much more special than her two medals, which she only sometimes wore.

Mum and Dad both talked freely about the friendship and camaraderie of camp life. Mum revelled in the comradeship, drill and discipline. It suited her outgoing personality. Her intellect and innate leadership blossomed in the Australian Women's Army Service.

And Mrs K our latest Lieut,
We  know that she will be a beaut,
As an N.C.O she was always Lil
And as "Madam" I'm sure we'll like her still.

From Fawkner Park Personalities Xmas '43 Signals Magazine.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thank the Lord

Par t of the Rats of Tobruk exhibition currently showing at the War Memorial

From Dad's diaries I get a sense of the importance of the trains during the war. How they were the arteries of the country carrying troops away from their dearest hearts and sometimes bringing them back again. The trains were crowded. Tired young men grabbed a sleep in luggage racks, on the floor and if they were lucky on the shoulder of a young lass beside them.

I get a sense of the eagerness of heart that shortened a long journey when it was going in the right direction.

Friday 28 May 1943 "Reported back to R.T.O at 1pm big muck up and long wait got seat in (Dog Box) left Bris at 2.30 and had good companions to travel with. Same old rush for tea at Casino. Good nights sleep on the floor."

Saturday 29 May 1943 "Awoke at 5:30 and was 1st into breakfast at Gloucester. Funny the remarks made by some of our boys, they thought I was a rookie on account of the new overalls."

At this time Dad was no rookie. He had been in Papua New Guinea, the Islands and the north of Australia as an engineer on Catalina flying boats flying over enemy territory for many months. He was on his way to his new posting at No 3 Operational Training Unit in Rathmines, to give new recruits the benefit of his experience.

I dug among the war memorabilia in an effort to discover what his experience was like. In December 1941, Japan entered the war and the diary entries changed from "Suva Fiji - Saw lovely fertile sugar plantations. Country rugged. Beautiful place to spend a holiday." to "On operation. Getting used to the long hours now." A cross check in his flight log shows just how long those hours were 12 and 13 hour stints on patrol ...

Dad's diary entries give almost no clues to what he felt or feared in the skies. It is impossible for me to imagine the strain when the friendly monotonous drone of their aircraft is broken by the terrifying buzz of enemy fighters or the hideous splutter of anti-aircraft fire.  Dad simply wrote "Fighters up but they never found us thank the Lord."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Anzac tradition

Diorama of boats landing

A couple of days befoe Anzac Day Mum said "Daddy's going to be at school today."

My chest puffed out with pride when I saw Dad with the other men from the RSL on the school verandah waiting to address the morning parade. He looked big in his blue suit and his chest looked very broad with his medals stung across it.

One of the men gave a speech, usually a long and boring one, about the dawn landing at Gallipoli and the war.  This excerpt is from scribbled notes of an Anzac speech Dad gave at the school.

"The ships came in close under the cover of darkness and at 2:30am on April 25 the day Australian's and New Zealanders have remembered ever since, most of the men disembarked into barges and set off for the shore.  The moon had been bright and now was low, so that the hill at Gallipoli was silhouetted on the skyline. The night was cold and the sea was smooth as glass. The boats made their way to the shore and on April 25 the Anzacs made their landing. For two of the youngest countries this was the day they were to take their place as adults among nations."

"There were many heroes in that battle and many names are still remembered for their leadership and courage. While we remember many individuals, it is not that but the spirit and zeal of the men who gave their best for their country, gave their all. And the war cemeteries are a reminder of them. But Anzac means so much because they all did what they could for the cause of freedom"

He goes on to say

"As you all know the great war to end all wars did not do that for in 1939 to 1945 we had what is called the second world war.  A lot of you children would know men who took part in that war, either in the Army, the Navy or the Air Force because many of your fathers left these shores to do as the original Anzacs. And let me assure you they upheld the tradition of Anzac and are still doing so today in Vietnam even as they did in the Korean War."

Dad didn't usually do the big speech. He gave his own little talk at the end before playing the Last Post and Reveille on his cornet.

"It is customary at any Anzac Day service, or at the funeral of any one accorded a military funeral that we sound the Last Post which is a bugle call signifying that the soldier has received his last posting of death. After the call we will maintain one minutes silence in honour of our fellow comrades. Let's each give thought for that period to what those men have done and won for us. After the minute's silence we sound the Reveille which is a call that is sounded at the start of the day. This signifies that we should each be up and doing our part towards making this country a better place to live."

Then he lifted his silver cornet to his lips and played the crisp clear notes of the Last Post's haunting melody.  He blew it like a bugle, not pressing any of the keys.  As the last long note faded away, there was silence across the parade ground. Our heads were bowed, looking down at our dusty school shoes. A minute was an awfully long time not to fidget and to resist the impulse to draw pictures in the dirt at my feet.

The silence was broken with Reveille -- get-outa bed, get-outa-bed. That's what Dad reckoned the tune said. According to him, the wheels of the trains he caught during the war talked too -- goin-home, goin-home they said on the train from Sydney to Brisbane. Honey-moon-ish, honey-moon-ish they said on the way to their honeymoon at the beach.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Dawn Service

Looking at one of the many wonderful dioramas at the War Memorial

I woke to the strains of the Last Post and Reveille. Dad had switched on the wireless, which was replaying the dawn service from Anzac Square in Brisbane. Cups and saucers were clicking in the kitchen. Mum and Dad were back home from the dawn service held at the local cemetery. Graves of the servicemen would now have red poppies on them. It was eerie lying in bed listening to the bugle and realising we children has been left alone in the house by ourselves, in the dark while we were asleep.

Mum popped her head around our bedroom door to make sure we were alright. She was wearing her best blue woolen suit with a soft white georgette blouse and smart pill-box hat that I only ever saw her wear to the Anzac service. I knew Dad would be wearing his blue double-breasted suit with his medals on.

Dad rarely wore his suit. Preparations for Anzac Day started a week before. Mum took his suit from the wardrobe and brushed it down with a clothes brush as she examined and picked at any small marks, making sure the wool grubs hadn't got it since last year. Then she hung it out to air on the clothesline on the front verandah. Next she rummaged through the overstuffed drawers of her dressing table to make sure that his medals were where she remembered last putting them.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The One Day of the Year

Sculpture and photograph in the War Memorial

The Senior English class was not as quiet as usual. All seven students were engaged in animated disagreement over Alan Seymour's play The One Day of the Year.  The source of the debate was not that it began with "I'm a bloody Australian and I'll always stand up for bloody Australia". It was because it questioned the validity of the most Australian of days, Anzac Day.

I found an essay titled The Essence of Drama and Conflict in my senior essay book. It isn't a good essay as it only received 14 out of 20 marks. It includes this paragraph:

"The greatest conflict of the play was brought about by the generation and education gaps. Alf was an old war veteran and observed Anzac day sacredly ... marching in the procession and joining his old pals in the pub.  He had brought Hughie up with the same respect for soldiers but being from a younger generation the war was a nonentity in Hughie's life. With his education he looked on Anzac Day critically observing it as only as a booze-up for the old soldiers. Hughie's refusal to attend the dawn service and then his ridiculing of Anzac Day in the university newspaper made is father extremely angry.  There was open conflict between the father and son."

The words "being from a younger generation" have "unrelated participle" marked in red over it. I don't know what it means now and doubt that I knew what it meant then. The grammar checker passes it as being OK today. The teacher underlined "sacredly" and put a question mark over it. Perhaps she felt that joining his old pals in the pub wasn't sacred observance of the day. I felt that Alf did, in his way, treat the day as sacred. In my family it certainly felt like a sacred day.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Canberra - Ausrtalia's National Capital
View along Anzac Parade from the War Memorial to Parliament House.
We spend a lovely winter weekend in Canberra recently and among other things visited the War Memorial.  It reminded me of a story I wrote when recording my family history 12 years ago so I dug it out. The text will be much longer then my usual posts but may amuse the Baby Boomers among us.

The story is titled "Lest we Forget". I will spread it over the next week and a bit as I take you around the War Memorial.