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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Baby pressies

Just before Christmas two very special friends had two very special babies so I embroidered these singlets for them. The one with the bird was designed by Isabella and is the famous 'bird with the golden seed'.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Of Love & War

A Kiss Interrupts the March, Melbourne, 31 March 1943. Uploaded to Flickr Commons on October 19, 2009by Australian War Memorial collection

I have always had a fascination with the 1930s and 1940s. I think it started while watching classic Hollywood movies on TV with Mum when I was quite young. Both my Nanas were also 30s women in a way. Nana Stoner loved the glamour and celebrity of the Hollywood stars while Nana Laffan had more of the 'make do and mend' mentality having lived on the land through the Depression and the War.

My interest in this area has continued to grow over the years so when I came to choose my Masters topic I naturally chose something that would let me immerse myself in the era. For two years I researched the impact that the stationing of American soldiers in Melbourne had on the music and dance styles of the time. The more I researched and interviewed people the more I came to realise just how different life on the wartime homefront was from the period preceding it. Youth was honoured over age, working women became as highly valued as home-makers and public life and duty stole the limelight from life centred around the home. There was also an ever-present tension between the need for public control and the heightened private desires fuelled by the romance of the ballrooms.

One of the things that has peaked my interest in this area again is two new exhibitions about the period. The first is Of Love and War at the Australian War Memorial which looks at the impact of war on relationships and 'the ways in which Australians incorporated affairs of the heart into their wartime lives'. You might like to checkout the photostream on Flickr Commons.

The other exhibition was curated by my thesis supervisor and is called Over-Paid, Over-Sexed & Over-Here?. This exhibition explores the myths surrounding the American marines stationed in Melbourne during 1943 the same peiod I researched and I'm hoping to see it next week.

So what's your secret fascination? What things do you clip out of the newspaper, read about, collect? Do you have a special area of interest that you keep a little secret?


Monday, February 22, 2010

Dad and his books

Last week marked the first anniversary of Dad's death so I have been thinking about him quite a lot lately. Whenever I think of Dad it is with a book in his hand. Dad loved books. I mean reeaally loved books. So much so that he had some 6,000 of them. Dad was never a collector in the sense that he didn't collect first editions or books on a specific topic or by a certain author. He was more of a book accumulator like me.

How Mum used to despair about all those books behind couches, under beds and in piles beside chairs. And yet, every time we moved house they were all packed up and taken to the new place where the challenge of finding enough space to put them would begin again.

A person's book collection reveals so much about them. This is what I learnt from Dad's. Dad was into Australian history and folklore; Ireland and the Irish in Australia; horse rearing and racing; wool-classing and farming; horticulture and viticulture; boating and aviation; gardening especially herbs; law, religion and lots of other things. He also had lots of fiction, poetry and plays which he re-read constantly. In his youth he read Jack Kerouac and European writers like Alberto Moravia and Francois Mauriac. More recently he liked Australian authors like Tim Winton, Bryce Courtenay and Thomas Kenneally. He had complete sets of works by Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene and Ernest Hemingway. He loved Australian bush poetry.

The bibliomania gene is a strong one and in my house we already have over 3,000 books. Like Dad's books mine are not all be in prisitine condition and cover a bewildering array of subjects but to me each book is a little miracle of someone's creativity and hardwork and I would never part with them. While it was not possible to keep all Dad's books I think we have done a pretty good job of keeping a curated sample. Now all we have to do is make room for them in our own homes!


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Knit One, Save One

As you know I like to knit. It can sometimes be hard to find the motivation to knit when the mercury is hovering at 30C but I think I've found my inspiration. 'Save the Children' was founded in 1919 by an English woman with the wonderful name of Eglantyne Webb. Their aim is to support children's rights throughout the world by providing both long and short-term relief to aid education, health and protection. This year 'Save the Children Australia' has launched the Knit One, Save One project to try and collect 80,000 knitted squares to make into blankets for children in Australia, India and Cambodia. So far they have collected over 17,000 but that still leaves a lot of squares to knit!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Three is a wonderful age. When Isabella was three she had a wonderfully eccentric understanding of the English language. I remember one night Tom and I were discussing whether or not a new shirt he had bought was too 'loud' to wear to work. The next morning Isabella said 'Daddy, I don't like that shirt it makes too much noise'. Another time I described a day as 'stinking hot' and from then on she always referred to hot days as 'smelly' but my favourite was the time that she and Henry saw a puppet show together at daycare. When I asked her if Henry had been scared at all she replied quite matter-of-factly, 'oh no, he was full of joy'.

Now it's Henry's turn. His vocabulary is expanding daily and he is always eagar to try it out and there have been a few gems recently. Last week he desperately wanted to sleep with us in the 'big bed'. When I asked him why, he said through his tears, 'because it makes me feel so delightful'. When he woke me up the next morning at 6am he asked if I could get up with him. Bleary-eyed I said I needed a few minutes and he said 'well, it would be magical if you can'.

Sometimes he just makes me laugh out loud. In the car the other day Isabella was talking ten to the dozen as usual and after a few minutes Henry turned to her and said in the most casual voice 'turn in down, Man'. I can't wait to hear what he comes out with next!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Crime Fiction Sicilian -Style

I'm not a huge crime fiction fan (especially the grisly contemporary ones) however once in a while I stumble across a series I really like. At the moment I am a bit obsessed with Inspector Montalbano of the Sicilian local police. Descibed as a cross between 'Columbo and Chandler's Philip Marlowe', Montalbano is a slightly eccentric, hard-bitten cop who only knows one way to do things - his way. He is also quite the gourmand and the books are full of descriptions of the food made by his housekeeper and the food that he eats while out on a case. There is lots of freshly grilled fish with lemon, olive oil and parsley but there are also things like his favourite snack 'calia e simenza' (roasted chickpeas and salted pumpkin seeds) and lemon ice made from 1 cup of lemon juice, two cups of sugar and four cups of cold water...mmm!

It was Tom's Mum who introduced me to the Inspector and she also introduced me to Iain Pears great series starring English art historian Jonathan Argyll and his girlfriend Flavia di Stefano of Rome's Art Theft Squad. Maisie Dobbs I found on my own. Maisie was a nurse during the First World War and later becomes a psychologist and private investigator. I just love the tone and atmosphere of these books - so melancholy.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The animal fascination continues...

Over the weekend we went to the Koala Conservation Centre on Phillip Island and saw these little guys. You forget just how adorable koalas really are until you see them up close like this. My favourites were the two baby koalas but unfortunately they were a bit camera shy.