Brisbane, QLD

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Like a lot of people, my parents kept their photos in a shoe box until they had time to put them in albums. When my Mum retired in the late 60's, she started to sort the photos and make albums. When she was writing captions she was having problems remembering the year the photo was taken so some of the next photos could be muddled but through sleuthing I'm sure most were taken in 1953.
We had been in Australia nearly 4 years. We had lived in a tent for most of 1949 and then in our garage since then. My Mum worked as a nurse and Dad as a telephone technician and truck driver. Every spare minute and every spare penny went towards building their house and life in their new country.
 My Mum designed the house and they both helped build it. (Now their granddaughter designs the interior of commercial buildings) Mum wanted to have a light, airy, spacious feel to the house but she had a job convincing building inspectors that having big windows wouldn't cause the house to fall down. She won her case but then she had difficulty finding suppliers of large windows for domestic use.

Mum taking a break from painting.

At the back of the house Mum had designed two walls of "French Windows" leading out onto a back patio. She had loads of problems getting suitable windows but finally had to settle on these steel framed industrial windows. My brother is now 15, taller than Mum and looking a lot like my Dad. He was busy finding after school jobs to enhance his pocket money. He delivered ice at 4 in the morning and did a paper run later. He was clever at school but also a rebel and was often in trouble with teachers.

Although my parents were concentrating on getting the house finished they always had time for me. I joined the Brownies, I had swimming lessons, I had tennis lessons, I rode my bike everywhere and was allowed to visit friends. My friends and I used to play in the "Australian Bush,"go hiking down to the creek, go swimming and catch yabbies. It was a great childhood. I became independent and tough.

During 1953 the shell of the house was finished but the front and back patio had to be concreted, all the interior walls and fittings were yet to be done. We were getting excited. At least it looked like a little house now. (One of the nicest in the street.)

Mum wanted a glass door. No one could do that! Work in progress on the front steps and patio.

Back patio work commences. Dad's PMG truck parked behind the house

Every year there was the threat of bushfires. In 1953 they came very close to our village of Loftus. The sky turned a yellow-grey haze, and a mountain of billowing black smoke with a red tinge crept closer to us. We were sent home from school and had to walk because the trains had stopped. Adults were sent home from work. Dad passed us in the truck and stopped. We all piled on the back and Dad delivered the kids to their homes before rushing home to turn the hose on and spray the house, the house he has spent 4 years building nail by nail. The above photo was taken from our unfinished lounge room. I had to stay inside but I watched my parents, brother and neighbours soak hessian sacks in water and go down the road a little way and beat out the ember fires which were starting up everywhere. Firefighters came with knapsacks, full of water and they were pumping a spray gun which seemed a little futile against the fury of the fire fueled by the wind. Luckily with the help of the wind changing direction and losing momentum, by night the fire was beaten back and our house was safe.

Besides house building, Mum spent a lot of her days off work clearing our land and establishing a garden. She loved the natural rock seam that ran across our land and she turned it into a nice rockery. Over the years she had it looking beautiful. We also had a pet family of Blue Tongued Lizards living under the rocks. She was unhappy with the neighbours building an ugly paling fence between our properties. She would have preferred a natural barrier of trees and shrubs.

Mum also tried her hand at growing vegetables but the soil was very poor. However, the tomatoes survived.

In the school holidays my parents took some time off building to explore our surroundings. In 1952 we went with friends by car through The Royal National Park to Wattamulla Beach. David and me playing in the sand.

Another time we went down a very steep winding road to Woronora River, a tributary of the George's River, for a picnic and a swim. This is Dad on top of 'Cathedral Rock' having a rare moment of relaxation.

Another day we caught a train and ferry to Bundeena Beach in Port Hacking. Mum enjoyed exploring the beach rocks. All these places were close by on the southern outreaches of Sydney. We had all fallen in love with Sydney. Mum and Dad made it their home forever but not their children.

I had made friends with a girl called Kerrie. We became very close. We had sleep overs at each other's houses (when they were finished). We went to the same school and Brownies. We spent many weekends together cycling in the National Park and canoeing. We caught the train to Cronulla Beach often, played tennis and went to the pictures together. Our friendship lasted into our twenties then we lost touch for many,many years. A few years ago I managed to find her and couldn't believe that she was living quite close to Brisbane. So we went to visit her and it was an exciting emotional reunion. We have developed along very different pathways in life but we still have that very close bond that we developed as kids. I believe my friendship with Kerrie and her family taught me to be a true Australian. (Kerrie is on the left)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


The framework is going up. It was traditional in those days for people like us, struggling with finances, to buy land, live in a tent, then build a garage to live in while building half the house to live in and then complete the house.
Dad nailed on the mahogany weatherboards. They were a rich deep red colour. Mum chose them from what little building materials were available and affordable at the time.

One wall finished. We were getting excited.

The front of the house is taking shape. Mum helps dad on her days off from nursing. I loved my new country and running bare foot everywhere.

I'm not sure but I think my parents extended their bank loan so that they could finish the whole house before we moved in. One of my Dad's friends migrated from England and built a house nearby. He  helped Dad (in the background) to add on the second half of the house, which included my bedroom. This work took all of 1951 and maybe more.

At the end of each year Mum and Dad would reward themselves with a day on the south coast on Boxing Day. It became a tradition for us to have a picnic on the beach at Austinmere.
 I loved the beach, I loved swimming, I loved my family and I loved Australia. Even though life was a struggle for my parents at this time they were happy. They made a five year plan to build and own their own house and provide a better life for their children than they could have in England.

 We found a big rock suitable for a picnic table.

Sometimes we went to the beach by train and sometimes we got a lift with neighbours. We couldn't afford a car. Every penny went into the house. I remember these neighbours, the Hudson's and their children Raymond, who I thought was cute and Dorothy, who was like a big sister to me.
My big brother, David, is on the right watching the waves break over the rocks, he is turning into a strapping teenager.

Guess from where I got my love of photography? 

Monday, May 18, 2009


This is going to be Birthday Bear's most exciting birthday yet.
For those who haven't read about Birthday Bear before, it belongs to a group of friends who celebrate birthdays together. Instead of giving presents, Birthday Bear is given from one person to the next on each birthday. It has to be dressed differently each time, reflecting the recipient's personality. Bear is the star of the birthday lunches.
Unfortunately, Chris has missed all our birthdays this last year as she and husband Bob have started on a working tour around Australia. At the moment they are working in Townsville in Far North Queensland. As it was Chris' birthday this week the group decided to surprise her by taking Birthday Bear to Townsville. Bill rang Bob and made the arrangements but kept it secret from Chris. The lunch was to be on Saturday. The group decided to make it a 3 day getaway, so on Thursday, we flew to Townsville with Birthday Bear. It is a 2 hour flight.

The view from our hotel window.

Jupiter's Casino Hotel.

Next morning we went for a walk into town.

We passed the marina with the Red Baron joy flight plane.

We saw some lovely old buildings.

We didn't want to be seen by Chris, so we thought we would leave the town and get a ferry to Magnetic Island.

We left Townsville and Castle Hill behind and headed to Magnetic Island.

Bob rang us with the startling news that Chris was taking her son to visit the island today. This was going to be tricky! Luckily she had gone early and was due back at 2:00 pm. Our tour started at 1:15 from the ferry terminal. We had just got onto our bus when another arrived and we saw Chris and son alight and head for the ferry home. That was close!

Rocky Bay

Nelly Bay and Harbour.

Cockle Bay

Kissing under Kissing Rock

Horseshoe Bay

Then we returned to our hotel where we met another couple of friends, Ben and Lyn, who happened to be on holiday here too. We all had dinner together, a delicious seafood buffet.

The next day we were to walk to the Rock Pool Restaurant where Bob had arranged for us to surprise Chris, she thought she was just having lunch with Bob and neighbours from the caravan park.

Birthday Bear was clamouring to get out of her bag and check out the hotel before going to lunch.Here she is in casual holiday attire, bikini and sarong. Accessories included a bead bag with sun screen and insect repellent, bucket and spade, and a booklet with photos and stories of all the lunches, which Chris had missed. Ann dressed bear and she was very suitably attired for Townsville.
She checked out the pool area and had a sun bake.

Then she ordered a drink....

...and chatted with friends, Diane, Ann and Helen.

She contemplated having a swim......

....but decided on a workout in the gym.

She needed a nap before the long walk to the restaurant.

We walked 2.5 kms along the beautiful Strand Park. The tropical views are magic. There is no surf because the Great Barrier Reef stops the waves.

Sadly you cannot swim in the sea at this time of the year as there are dangerous marine stingers.

However, there are netted enclosures where it is safe to swim. But Bear just wanted to get to the restaurant.
"O.K. I'm ready for Chris to arrive and give her a big surprise."

Here she comes with Bob.

She is so happy to see us all that she.....
...cries.....but not for long.....
I think she enjoyed the surprise for her 60th birthday.

Then we all settled down for our birthday lunch with bear at the head of the table.

Ann, Pam, Troy, George, Bob, Chris, me, Helen and Paul.(Bill took the photo)

The fish and salad was delicious.

Then the girls walked and talked.

We had coffee before returning to the hotel where we sat by the pool and chattered some more.

We watched the sun go down. It was a beautiful sunset to end an exciting day.

Bob and Chris hired an 8 seat wagon for the next morning and took us sightseeing around Townsville before we flew back to Brisbane.

View from the top of Castle Hill.

The Ross River Weir.

Bye, bye Townsville, bye bye Chris and Bob. Bear wasn't allowed to stay, she had to come home with us ready for Mary's birthday on 12 June. Mary couldn't come with us to Townsville as she was on holiday in Victoria.

See Bill's video of Birthday Bear in Townsville here