Another rainy day

A rainy Sunday.

Today I want to tell you about another birth.

Mine.

Two mountains featured in my childhood. The mountain on which I was born and the mountain on which I was bought up.

Today I want to take you to the mountain where I was born.

But first let me set the scene.

Australia, 1973.

The Vietnam War still raging, more than 17 years after it started.

The Age of Aquarius in full swing, large exoduses of people from cities to the country, looking for peace and a self sufficient existence.

Afraid of a nuclear world war?

My parents, no exception, on their exodus they found a mountain and made a home.

The mountain they found was scrubby and dry, west of Sydney, near the Hawkesbury River. The forest eucalypt, the ground, leaf covered and tinder dry, clumps of dry brown grass. The earth, solid sandstone with patches of sandy soil. The only water to be found, if it had rained recently, collected in little pools in the sandstone outcrops, a bit like rock pools at the beach.

They called this mountain Magic Mountain. There is probably a story behind the name but I’ve searched my memory banks, it’s nowhere to be found.

Not another soul on this mountain. Just wilderness and wildlife.

My father worked on the Wisemans Ferry down on the river, we lived at the top of the mountain.

No car, no radio, no clock.

I was born sometime in the middle of the night, between January 5th and January 6th, 1973.

Dad lit the fire to heat some water.

I was born by candle and fire light.

Dad tied my umbilical cord.

Years later we visited Magic Mountain with our father. I remember a small cave in a sandstone wall and scant evidence of people once living there, a fork, a broken bowl?

What did the house look like? Built in my imagination from snippets of what Dad told us and knowledge of the house they built on the next mountain, I picture a small rustic house constructed out from the cave. Handmade, a panel front door with a love heart cut into it, a stone chimney that attempted to guide the smoke from the house. Windows? In my mind I see two little four pane windows on either side of the door, a bit uneven, giving the house a friendly lopsidedness, winking, welcoming. Made even more so by colourful handmade curtains.

Outside, chickens and a goat roaming free?

I imagine some rocky flower gardens and a little vegetable patch but I’m not sure how they survived the chickens and goat? Or how they grew in the sandy dry soil?

An old forty gallon drum collecting rainwater.

One week old, no one knew I had arrived.

Mum, keen to show me off, her newborn daughter, strapped me to her front and walked me and my brothers down to the ferry.

At the ferry I was introduced to the ferry master and the passengers.

My beginning.

Have a wonderful day!

Great Great Great

Coals and rusty grate.

Makes me want to take you time traveling.

To 1790, a warm July, to the birth of a baby boy in Reading, England.

My Great Great Great Grandfather, but in that moment, a fresh newborn baby, James Hains Lovell, a life yet to be lived. His hearty wail heard from houses away.

In his mothers arms, filling his peripheral, his mothers face, beautiful, glowing. A healthy boy, first born.

Into what life was he born? What did the world look like? What did their village, house look like?

Did they live in a little standalone weatherboard cottage in the country? A smokey kitchen fire to cook on? A muddy footpath outside their front door that lead to a grassy road with deep muddy carriage tracks?

Or did they live in a Terrace house in town? A single story workers cottage? Stepping out the front door into a busy street, smelly and dirty, refuse and waste, lurking with disease. Wise to watch your footstep or risk treading on something not just unpleasant, but something that could make you sick.

At that time England had a few problems, a massive divide between the rich and poor, not enough food to support the increasing population of the struggling lower class, inadequate manual waste systems, disease. People were dying and starving. Some, to feed their families found their only option was to take what wasn’t there’s to take and before they knew it, they were being shipped off to Australia, Van Diemen’s Land, as convicts, their families left behind to fend for themselves.

At the same time, Napoleon seemed intent on taking over the world.

On Saturday 1st April, 1809, our ancestor, now a strong young man, enlisted. Why did he enlist? Was he patriotic and wanted to fight for his country? History tells us that it was more likely because life was bleak at home and opportunities few.

In my imagination, it was the Redcoats, the British Army, an awe inspiring spectacle as they marched through struggling towns full of hungry town folk, capturing the minds and imaginations of young boys and girls. Handsome in their uniforms, strong and fed.

James fought in the Napoleon war, was sent to many different countries, promoted several times, reached Sergeant-Major at 30 years old, and may have fought under the command of Arthur Wellesley (later named Duke of Wellington after defeating Napoleon in 1815). Tales for another day.

In 1824, to support the expanding Australian colony, his regiment was sent to Van Diemen’s Land to escort a shipment of convicts and provide civil administration (keep them in line)…

As children we learnt about Australia’s convict heritage, we learnt both of the cruelty imposed on convicts, as well as their amazing feats, the city they built, amazing buildings, some of stone, others of beautiful native hardwood timber and paved roads, still there, beautifully withstanding the test of time in old Sydney. Our pyramids.

The cruelty though…the imposers of this cruelty? The guards, the Redcoats?

Records portray Sergeant-Major Lovell as a religious man who ran bible study groups with a large following. Could that mean he had compassion for the convicts and treated them so? I hope so.

James arrived in Sydney in April 1825 and met 18 year old Caroline Amelia Gosney, a free settler, who had arrived days earlier with her sister. They were married on Monday 27 February 1826.

His regiment was sent to India in 1831 (his wife and two children traveled with him). But still suffering from injuries from one of his earlier expeditions, he requested permission in 1832 to return to England with the intention of resigning.

His discharge was granted on Wednesday 12 December 1832, 24 years and 144 days after enlisting.

Just a week after he was discharged, he petitioned the Master General of the Ordnance, seeking support for a position as a Barrack Sergeant.

Lucky for our ancestor, the Master General at the time was his former commanding officer, Sir James Kemp.

The Board of Ordnance was an independent organization responsible for supplying and maintaining military stores, guns, cannons, artillery etc for both the Army and Navy.

The Master of the Ordnance was traditionally a knight, and the most senior positions in the Ordnance held by former army officers. A prestigious and sought after position only considered with impeccable character references from high ranking, well respected, officers.

As Barrack Sergeant, James was sent to Zakynthos (Greece), Kent, London, Sydney, Port Macquarie…

…and here, to Wellington, which is where I’ve been wanting to bring you.

They arrived in Wellington in December 1847.

Wellington had been founded just 8 short years before by English settlers.

I imagine dirt roads, small wooden houses dotted around, close but not too close to the harbour, some complete, some in mid construction, temporary huts, canvas tents with single hessian beds, clothes lines, single lines of rope between two posts, fires in the open with heavy cast iron pots hanging over them, smoking out the laundry, fat well used chopping blocks, piles of fire wood. Elegant heavy English attire and muddy shoes.

Also some larger buildings partly made of wood, brick & clay; the chapel, the merchant stores and army barracks.

A peaceful happy settlement? Smoke spiraling friendly from chimneys?

Of course, there is a lot more to this story, the land the English used to settle Wellington had Maori occupants and no sale agreement had been made. It has been written that, at this moment in time, the Maori & English worked together in Wellington and the Maori helped the English build huts and they traded goods, labour and fresh food…that would be an interesting story to research but it’s not the story I’m telling today.

But we have arrived at our destination.

On Monday 16 October, 1848 at 1.40am there was a terrible earthquake.

In the light of the chilly morning the damage was revealed. Most wood constructed buildings were still standing but their brick chimneys rubble. The brick and clay buildings, some visibly damaged, some now withholding secrets of internal weakness.

Through after shocks, life continued on, shops opened, people continued about their daily business, glancing up at every shake, looking for reassurance in fellow eyes.

James went to work and took two of his young children, William and Amelia. I imagine Amelia skipping ahead and William kicking a stone, excited to be with their father and excited about going to the store with him, just like my daughter is when I take her to work with me.

Was the Barracks intact? Did guns tumble from shelves? Cannon balls roll around? Ammunition spill? Was there still four strong walls?

Were their feet light when they were walking home? Was the sun shining and the afternoon air cool? Was it smokey from the evening fires already preparing the evening meal? Were they holding hands?

It was 3.30pm when they were walking down Farish Street (now known as Victoria Street) toward Manners Street. Just as they were passing Mr Fitzherbert’s store there was a slight shock following by a severe one, in that instant, with a terrible sound, the brick wall of Mr Fitzherbert’s store collapsed onto them.

I imagine him trying to protect his little children with his body as he saw the wall falling toward them, pulling them into his arms and turning his back to the wall. Or were they separated? Was the short sharp command, “run”? Did the try to escape the falling bricks?

They were immediately dug out by the soldiers but Amelia was already dead and William followed at 10.50pm that night.

James’ primary injury was a broken thigh, with flesh torn off his left leg but it was thought that he would live.

But on Friday 20 October, with his wife Caroline at his bedside, 58 years old, James died.

He was buried, with military honours in the Thorndon cemetery.

There is a small plaque inside the little chapel at the cemetery that mentions their sad deaths, the only recorded casualties of the 1848 Wellington earthquake.

But like the warmth and hope that comes with fresh morning rays that effortlessly dismiss darkness, new life, eight months later in Wellington, Caroline gave birth to our Great Great Grandfather, James Hains Lovell Jnr.

Yesterday’s harvest, another two apples (just one left on the tree now) 🌱

Have a wonderful day!

(all the research was done by Peter John Lovell’s and published in his genealogical book ‘A SERGEANT-MAJOR’S LEGACY, James Hains Lovell and His Australian Descendants’)

Cucumbers

Our cucumbers are taking their time.

A meandering pace, one where you get to take in the little things, enjoy the journey.

My pace is anything but meandering. My automatic internal drive is to get to the destination (the job done) as quickly, on time, as well as possible.

My daughter, she takes her time, ponders, gets lost in thought, gets distracted, notices the detail, remembers the little things and wants to talk about them…in our quiet moments when I’m there with her? That is joy!

On a bush walk with a friend a while ago, I was doing my usual, targeting the destination with fire in my feet. I believe I was seeing everything and noticing the little things, but if I’m honest, I’m sure everything was being captured with motion blur.

My friend said gently, “slow down, what’s the hurry?”

My logical sense agrees, and wishes my instinctual self could auto re-program for those times.

Learnt behaviour or innate?

Perhaps it’s because of the mountain, the quicker I walked, the quicker the trek home would be over, or maybe it’s the pace of the film industry that has put blasters on my heels, or maybe being the sole person responsible for my daughter, trying to fit everything into the day.

I was at the supermarket with a friend recently and I was in my usual zone, heightened awareness/energy, focused on the destination. But why? It was the weekend, we were heading to a friends house for dinner!

I notice it’s only when there is a job to be done or a destination to reach.

I’m grateful my friends have bought it to my attention.

Something for me to work on! (I’ll have to start a list):

  • To consciously adjust my pace depending on my destination or job at hand.

Yesterday’s harvest, two apples! 🌱

Have a wonderful day!

Shells

We have shells scattered around our garden.

And drift wood and sea glass.

Treasures from the beach.

Some from distant beaches.

Physical memories carried home.

The beach? To me, an Aussie girl, golden sand, more crab balls than you could ever count, wet sandy toes, sand castles & forts, boogie boards, rock pools, shells galore, smooth pebbles, piles of seaweed, sometimes smelly, sunscreen, burning sun, Nan’s cheeky smile, family.

My Nan lived in a coastal town on the north coast of NSW, Australia.

She was an incredible lady, beautiful like a movie star and so loved. A constant stream of visitors, friends and family from near and far.

All my memories of Nan are stored safe, not deep or under lock and key, but close to the surface, neatly filed, in view, for easy access.

I remember her house, Market Street, when I was little, the street a small strip of bitumen with wide sandy verges and a lovely green front garden. I remember the grape vine that climbed from the fence, over the car port and above the ramp toward the back door of the house. I remember the orange vinyl chairs around the table in the small dining room, but mostly I remember Nan and her smile. Also Great Uncle Horrie and his clever dog, Dog. On request Dog would fetch Uncle Horrie’s cigarettes! Their cheeky smiles and laughter sparkled eyes.

In the later years of her life, every time I left her, driving down the highway back to Sydney I’d cry, cheeks soaked with tears of sadness and fear, afraid of the day I’d lose her.

It was a sad sad day when we did.

But we haven’t lost her, she’s in our hearts, forever.

From here I’m going to skip ahead a couple of years, to a family reunion. Nan’s house hadn’t sold, it had been rented out and was now sitting empty. Legend has it that Nan came to my brother in a dream and suggested he buy her house and turn it into a holiday house for the family.

He did.

Since then, most Easters from when my little girl was a toddler, we’ve gathered at her house.

Just like we did when we had Nan and Uncle Horrie, we sit on the porch in the morning sun, with our cups of tea and local newspapers. They are with us in the warmth of the sun, the smell of the salt air and the sound of the waves, calling us to the beach, from just a few short blocks away.

And we see them in the faces, gait and smiles of our aunts, uncles and cousins as they walk toward us down the path to the house.

Family. Home.

The beach.

Have a wonderful day!

Rain

It’s raining.

The top of NZ is flooding.

Not where we are, thank goodness, no swollen rivers, or scary currents with unknown debris lurking under dirty churned up water, no roads hidden under brown water with unseen obstacles.

Here we have gentle comforting rain, a cool freshness.

I know first hand the fierceness of flood water, indiscriminate, powerful, unforgiving.

On the mountain we had two creeks to cross to get home, the big creek and the little creek, often they would flood.

One evening, when we were young children, we returned home, on the cusp of darkness, to find the big creek swollen and raging.

Our family car was an ex army long wheel base Landrover. Perfect for contending with the pot holed gravel roads, rocky uneven creek crossings, rough, often soggy, tracks, climbing the long slippery steep inclines to our house…and forging creeks turned into turbulent powerful churning rivers?

The back of the Landrover made cosy for the children. The cold, standard issue, army metal seats covered with a panel of wood and a foam mattress topped with cosy sheepskins, blankets and pillows.

Our step father put his foot on the brake, we did too when the headlights revealed our big creek, no longer recognisable, swollen up to the trees, dirty brown, branches and other debris speeding by, the powerful current flattening everything in its path.

Home on the other side.

If we didn’t need to cross it, this post would read differently, to me there is something fascinating and hypnotising about flood water, wild and fierce! Captivating.

I recall times when we were flooded in I’d don a rain jacket and gumboots and wander down the track to the creeks. Safely observing. I love. But crossing?

Let me take you back to that night.

Hushed tones in the front seats undiscernable over the roar of the charging water.

Us children, the four of us, peered from amongst the blankets and sheepskins. It’s too high, it will go over the bonnet. Eyes bright.

Our step father, wd40 and hessian bag in hand, opened the bonnet, his head disappeared behind it, as did the fierce churning water, momentary relief like in a scary part of a movie when you cover your eyes, bang, the bonnet back in place, the raging river still there. Higher? Angrier?

Wd40 applied and hessian bag in place our step father slid back into the drivers seat.

An exchanged look in the front seat.

Not a whisper of air released from a single lung in that car.

Rev, rev, forward into the raging river, steady and firm, the water pushed against us and rushed over the bonnet. Eyes wide. Ploughing through, moving forward, the water wanting to push us sideways but strong arms keep us directed toward the distant track on the other side.

Suddenly the vehicle stopped, the engine dead.

Nobody spoke. We could feel the vehicle being pushed sideways. We were in the middle, the fiercest, strongest part, the water seemed angrier at having this new obstacle In its way, determined to go through us, thudding angrily at the drivers side window.

Nobody moved, nobody breathed.

Our step father pushed the ignition button. It started!!! Can you believe it? A miracle? Careful on the accelerator, we moved forward out of the main current, the water happy to see us get out of the way, roared past. An eternity later (seconds) we reached the track on the other side.

Six people, one collective breath, like the car was a giant animal, safe now from a predator.

Do I remember my bed being especially cosy, safe and warm that night?

Have a wonderful day!

 

Fresh leaves

The wind is back. It’s swirling violently out there but today our little cottage feels protected. A force field? Safe in a solid bubble, firm feet on the ground.

The temperature has dropped as well.

We have the fire going.

There is a little rain, I can hear it spitting at the windows.

It’s still dark outside, the light will bring us news of how our garden has fared.

Let me show you what we found in our garden on the weekend.

Doesn’t she look like a swan?

Miniature fresh leaves.

Isn’t there something adorable about little things?

Fresh, bright, perfect, beautiful…

Weathering comes with age.

A childhood lived, where we, as parents, aim to provide security and plant the seed of love and acceptance. Nurture and guide. With the goal of sending happy, healthy, strong, confident, brave people into the world.

A childhood enjoyed, to be a kid, no cares or worries, safe, empowered within safe boundaries, surrounded by people who love and want the best for them, their champions. Where self worth founds and grows.

It’s a privilege to be a parent.

I’m grateful to have been entrusted with the responsibility.

The wind has gone quiet.

Just a momentary lull, I can hear the wave of a new swinging gust approaching. There is a comfort in the way the wind is swirling around us today.

Have a wonderful day!

Monday’s harvest 🌱

Favourite quote from my daughter this morning, “I’m going to put some earrings on to give me a little bit of sparkle!”.

Sparkle, we love sparkle, reminds me of a time when my daughter was really little and we were driving toward the Wellington harbour on an crystal blue day with the sun brilliant on the water. I said “look at the sparkling water”, my daughter replied “someone dropped their glitter”.

Isn’t it wonderful that laughter that lives in our memories can put a sparkle in your eye today.

Survivors

Do you remember the nasty storm that flattened our tomatoes?

We have some survivors.

Thriving survivors.

The best revenge for being flattened? To come back. To succeed.

I worked on a film in 1995 called The Island of Dr Moreau.

It was a difficult job.

The stories that could be told.

Our director, John Frankenheimer, was old school Hollywood, and we had the challenge of Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer being our stars.

There was a line of dialogue in the script “you don’t have to obey the bastards, they’re not Gods”.

Our camera team had t shirts made, on the front left breast was what looked like the Panavision logo but if you looked closely you could see it actually said Painavision and on the back the quote from the script “you don’t have to obey the bastards, they’re not Gods”. Never before, nor since, have I gotten more pleasure out of wearing a t shirt 😃.

We survived the film shoot and, stronger, we headed off to the next one.

Yesterday’s harvest 🌱

Have a wonderful day!

Meyer Lemon

This is our third Meyer Lemon tree and our first crop.

I’m grateful for what our first two trees taught us.

Wisdom shared.

This is a poem written by my Great Great Grandmother, Jemima Erskine Rush. Written during the Great War, 1914-1918, in which she lost three sons.

LOOK AT THE BRIGHT SIDE

Better to walk on the Sunny side

Than to stand in the dark and cold, 

Better to brighten another life

And leave your sorrow untold.

Better to make the best of things

Whatever your lot may be

Better to float in a world like this

Than sink in sorrow's deep sea,

Better to hope for brighter days

Though the clouds around hang low, 

Better to carry a cheerful heart

And you in grace will grow.

We have a couple of her poems, published in a little book called Jemima, written by her grand daughter Connie.

I wish we had more. More poems, more stories.

Best moment yesterday, bedtime, reading Stig of the Dump. The Snargets running for their lives from Stig, screaming out for help, ‘Aaaaaaoooower! It’s a kye, it’s a kye, it’s a kye, it’s a kye, it’s a KYVE man!’. Made us laugh til we cried.

Yesterday’s harvest 🌱

Have a wonderful day!

 

Toddler peas

Our baby peas are growing up.

Finding their feet.

Reaching out, looking for something to hold.

I still have so much to learn about investing, but that’s one of the things I’ve learnt, (buy undervalued and) hold.

Look for good companies, with a strong track record of growth and good management, that have a market price that isn’t reflective of its intrinsic value.

But the key is time. Hold.

Favourite moments yesterday, snuggled in the morning sun on the couch with my daughter listening to Disney tunes.

Nowhere to be, nothing that needed to be done.

Our Saturday mornings, traditionally nonstop from an early start, are now blissfully extracurricular free.

And Saturday evening full of laughs with friends.

Have a wonderful day!