Shifting the work barriers

For three years now I have had the pleasure of working from home in Canberra, doing communications and PR work for a small, Melbourne based company.  That role finished in October, and since then, I have been looking for other work outside of the house because the time has come to broaden my horizons again. It was great while it lasted, and I really enjoyed the work and the people I worked with.  And the flexibility it offered suited me and my family for that period of time.

But since that role finished, I have barely been into my home office, and it has gradually become the junk room.  Beach towels, unfinished sewing projects, piles of books, reference articles, clothes to sort into piles of keepers and for the Salvos all populate the space … now it’s just somewhere that I used to work.

Even writing for this blog is done on a different computer in another room.  Somehow it doesn’t feel right to be in there.  I want to draw a line under it, close that door and jump through another window. Move forward.  (That’s enough clichés for now.)

Work 1

However, every time I walk past the room, I groan.  It’s more than it being a junk room.  Yes, it’s a tip, with piles of papers and books on the floor, and filing to be done.  But I am starting to think that the new phase of work that I want to move into can’t really start until I deal with that room and its contents.

So, kids go back to school tomorrow and I will attempt to make a start, push through the psychological barrier.  Something has to shift, and I am the only person who will move it.

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Commemoration an important ritual

In 1990, we travelled (frugally) in Europe for several months.  Our travels took us to many places, including through the swathes of First World War battle sites in Belgium, France and Germany.

I’ll never forget the shock I felt when I first saw the war grave sites dotted throughout the landscape; the white crosses seemed to go on forever, interspersed with quite a few crescent moon grave stones, indicating the soldier had been a Muslim.  This shock was despite a life of solemn reverence for those who had died in or as a result of their war service; my grandfather being one.

In April 1995, we returned to the north of France, and by chance saw a small brochure on a town hall bulletin board advising that there would be an ANZAC Day Memorial Service at Villers-Bretonneux in a few days’ time.  The Australian Ambassador would be in attendance, as would other town dignitaries.  Our plans were flexible, so we immediately decided to stay in the area, and attend the service.

Driving in to Villers-Bretonneux is an unsettling experience.  So much Australian referencing! In rural France!  I had always been aware in general of the role of Australian soldiers in protecting this Somme battle area.  But it was still a surprise to see so much Australiana so far from home – streets, hotels and restaurants with Australian names.  And the school is called the Victoria School, in memory of the many Victorian soldiers who died defending the area, stopping the German advance on 24 April 1918.

War graves 6 War graves 5a

The Australian Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux was inaugurated in 1938, and has been the focal point for many Australian ANZAC Day ceremonies over the years.  The main tower is flanked by memorial walls listing the names of missing soldiers, as well as the battle honours of the first Australian Infantry Force.  I was overwhelmed to be there, it is such a beautiful site, so well cared for.

War graves 2 War Graves 3

Attendance numbers at the service were large on the day we were there, with Australian school groups and service groups accompanying groups of local and national dignitaries.  I am always moved by the bagpipes – it’s such a mournful sound.  And I am not a jingoistic nationalist – the current trend of wrapping Australian flags around everything concerns me.  However, I was moved to tears singing the Australian national anthem at that place, knowing the generations of loss that had gone before, not just there, but at every war zone. And that’s the reason I attend the ANZAC day ceremonies from time to time – to remember the losses we suffer, and the futility of wars.

War graves 4  War graves 1

NOTE: The arrangements for attending ANZAC Day services at Villers-Brettoneaux these days are far more complex. (http://www.dva.gov.au/commems_oawg/commemorations/commemorative_events/anzac_day/Pages/france.aspx)  And the trees in these photos have since been removed from the site

Sighting Newcastle heritage, one site at a time

Being the second oldest white settlement in Australia, there’s plenty of history in Newcastle and the National Trust is very active there.  Tourism is one of the most important future growth areas for Newcastle, and it really has so much potential: historical buildings, beaches, and wineries in the Hunter Valley.  I left Newcastle in 1980, and by the age of 35 had lived away from the city longer than I had lived in it.  But regular visits to family mean I can now catch up on all the sights.

Last week, we visited two places – one that I was very aware of, Fort Scratchley, which was a no go zone when I was a kid but has now been restored by local historical groups;and Miss Porter’s House, a National Trust historical house.

(There are some interesting pictures on the Facebook site https://www.facebook.com/pages/Miss-Porters-House/140843169416116?ref=stream)

Miss Porters House

Miss Porter’s House is in King Street, and was built in the early 1900s.  Local business owner, Herbert Porter moved into his new house in 1910 along with wife, Florence Jolly.  Their children, Ella and Hazel were born soon after in 1911 and 1914.  Sadly, Herbert and his mother died during the epidemic of Spanish flu in 1919, leaving Florence, Ella and Hazel to live on in the house making a living as best they could.

Both of the women grew up in the house, and remained living there all of their lives, with neither one marrying.  Hazel was the last one to pass away; she died in 1997 and left the house and all of its contents to the National Trust.  And there are lots of contents.

Clothes in wardrobe

Bed ends

Shoes

Despite the house suffering significant damage during the earthquake in Newcastle in 1989 – the two sisters had to be dug out from the house by neighbours – the National Trust has done a fantastic job of restoring and displaying a whole variety of furniture, knick knacks, kitchen equipment, clothes, dolls, and ephemera providing a series of snapshots in time of the women’s lives in this Edwardian building.

Each room has a volunteer explainer, partly to monitor the room’s contents, but mainly to explain the materials and activities of the house.

Miss Porter’s House is open every second Sunday from 1pm-4pm; there is an entry fee.

Going through it, I wonder what the National Trust would think of the contents of my mother’s house?

Ft Scratchley sign

Fort Scratchley is also a very interesting and quite significant Australian historical site.  Built in the 1880s to guard the resources being exploited already in the region by the white settlers– the area is rich in coal seams – the Fort offers wide views of the Hunter River and the beaches to the north and south and would have provided an excellent vantage point to monitor approaching vessels.

View to Nobby's from Ft Scratchley

canon gun view

japanese sub model

Interestingly though, a Japanese submarine was able to sneak right up to the Harbour in June 1942, firing off 34 shells with several landing at various spots around the city foreshore.  The Fort’s guns could not return fire due to the low angle of the submarine in the water – the guns could not be directed down low enough.

Visiting the Fort today is fascinating, with a guided tour (fee charged) that takes you down through the tunnels underneath.  You don’t have to take the guided tour, though, and there is more than enough of interest if you wander through the rooms and exhibits at your own pace.

Canon 1 Canon 2

And just to remind you of where you are, they do fire canons.  This small one was fired a couple of times while we were there; our visit coincided with that of a large group of people from a cruise ship.

No reservations about Tidbinbilla open day

We had much fun at the Tidbinbilla Extravaganza today.  The glorious autumn weather resulted in a good turn out for the event, which is designed to encourage families to become more familiar with the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.  Along with its fantastic interactive playground, the ACT Parks and Conservation Services puts on a range of child-focussed activities and entertainment each year.

BBQs were popular at Tidbinbill

The free BBQs were well used, and picnics were another popular choice for families, backed up by some hot food options that were for sale.

The entertainment included Questacon’s Excited Particles show, one of its popular outreach programs that explains science in every day language.  They really do a great job of keeping it real. Exploring the topic of energy, apparently there are 101 uses for liquid nitrogen: freezing an onion with liquid nitrogen, then smashing it with a hammer; mixing liquid nitrogen with detergent and water, to produce large amounts of froth; and a demonstration of the injection of liquid nitrogen into a balloon. Guess what, it pops!

Excited particles 1

Excited particles 2

Also popular was the reptile talk and sing along, aimed to foster respect for, rather than fear of, reptiles.  Several “brave” volunteers held snakes and patted a baby crocodile. The message was clear – staying away from them is the best way for us all to keep safe.

Crocs 1

Crocs 2

ACT Parks and Conservation Service has a program of activities designed to educate the community about indigenous history and use of land in and around Canberra.  Rangers were on hand to talk about some of the local foods, plants, animals and history.

Snake arms

Snake body painting was very popular, and they also had samples of emu, wallaby and possum from their BBQ, which were very tasty.

Announced today was the donation of an all-terrain wheelchair to the ACT community, by the National Parks Association of the ACT.  The wheelchair operates on one, centrally located wheel, and is designed to be steered by at least two people.  The aim is for people with a mobility impairment to use the wheelchair out on the tracks in the ACT’s conservation reserves, opening up opportunities for them to experience the Territory’s natural environment.

Mobility wheelchair 1

Mobility wheelchair 2

Autumn is a really pleasant time to be outside in the ACT – it’s not baking hot, and it’s not really cold (although I don’t mind the latter).  Today was a cracker of a day – 26 degrees C – and by the look of it, lots of Canberrans agreed with me that the Tidbinbilla Extravaganza was the place to be.