some sweet australian please (a giveaway!)
Oh my! I’m so thirsty … so thirsty. I don’t know if this is a consequence of the rich gravy Julian made for supper’s pork cutlets, or the fact that it’s still dreadfully hot at 10.30 at night after a dreadfully hot day. If you’d been peering into our dark garden, a few moments ago, you’d have seen me drinking from the hose, in between watering the wilted herbs and vegies. Yes I did. It was damm fine too :-) I thought about holding the hose over my head, but then worried that Rina, our sweet exchange student, might notice and think her new mother (she calls me “mum” – cute!) was a bit weird.
Instead, here I shall sit and share what I discovered today. I can now hook up an IV infusion – very thrilling stuff, seriously! – I can prime it, calculate and set a gravity fed line, give a bolus injection into a bung, calculate and set a pump fed line, calculate and set up a burette to administer drugs, and say “I don’t think so!” in my best Elastogirl voice when a pushy post-op nurse (played by our teacher) tries to talk me into taking a 16 year old girlpatient (dummy) back to the ward when her oxygen sats have dropped below 90%. Woot!
I discovered that you can do wicked things to the bread dough if you are using a wet method. Such as, mix 3 cups of flour with 5 cups of water, when you’re supposed to mix 3 cups of flour to TWO cups of water. It was 5.50am – my eyes still hadn’t focussed – clearly my brain hadn’t. Nevertheless – the dough (slops?) rose like a hot air balloon – 24 hours later I drained at least a couple of cups of whey like water off the dough (rather unattractive) – the dough rose again – was still dreadfully moist so I kind of slopped it into the dutch oven – baked it, and lo and behold it turned into a beautifully risen, crusty topped loaf of bread! Amazing! Of course, I haven’t yet tasted it – steamy hot bread holds no appeal when the weather is equally steamy and hot. I’ll let you know tomorrow whether it was edible. We still may chalk this up as an Anne Shirley moment – something never to be repeated.
I also discovered that Spotty has a new range of May Gibbs Gumnut Baby fabric. Swoon! It’s so gorgeous. You see, I was on my way home from my IV excitement and needed to call in to the shops for groceries and fabric – for Rina’s welcome pillowcase and laundry bag (apparently, Japanese students prefer to give you their dirty laundry in their own individual bag – that’s cool :-). Now I’d intended to buy some of this sweet mermaid fabric – Abby thought it was darling and her tastes run to those of teenage Japanese girls.
However, there – next to the mermaids – is the May Gibbs fabric. I grabbed a bolt in every pattern-way ’cause seeing it – loving it, poring over it, remembering the tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and Raggedy Blossom and Mr. Lizard and the Banksia Men – reinforced something I had been thinking about – and working on – in Merimbula. You might remember, we had so many wonderful adventures and each came with its own set of fabulous wildlife – flora and fauna – landscapes, history, people and stories. Each evening as I related the day’s discoveries and delights to the family, wrote about them in my journal, and sorted through my photos, I reflected on the notion that we Australians aren’t especially embracing of what we have, right here, in front of us.
Very rarely do you see an Australian animal used in a “cool” design – the t-shirts and lunchboxes and greeting cards and notebooks and tote bags are instead more often decked out in European/North American bears or foxes (introduced pests and Boot Family Enemy Number 1) or rabbits or squirrels. The animals of the African plains or tropical jungles of Asia make more appearances than those that share this land with us. As for our plants, flowers, trees and birds – they rarely score an appearance. There’s a real cultural cringe around kangaroos, koalas or wombats. Yes, they appear on our coins, coat of arms, and you can find plenty in souvenir shops, but anything else is often considered a bit kitsch. Tourists embrace them. The locals – not so much. The only place I regularly see them (apart from my purse) is dead on the side of the road.
And it’s not just the tangible, living-right-now things we ignore – we Australians are pretty good at ignoring – and getting rid of – what came before. The other night, when I was researching and writing about Roslyn blankets from New Zealand – I discovered that the New Zealand government and universities had collected wonderful histories and photographs about this company – it’s factory, people and goods. It was like dipping into a marvellous dress up box and having whole new worlds revealed. So I attempted to find similar styled sources about Australia’s wool manufacturers – almost nothing. Certainly nothing I could turn into a story with pictures. Such a shame.
Yes, there are historical societies and archives somewhere – but here in Australia local history is a fringe activity and hard for the average Jane to access. For some reason, Australians are neither especially fond of or interested in what came before. The dramatic parts, yes – Gallipoli, the Kokoda Track, Ned Kelly (this last fetish IS cringeworthy – the man was a violent thug), the odd race horse, and of course, football. But the stories of our first peoples, the white pioneers, the enriching waves of non- English migrants from all over the world, the thriving industries and country towns and villages of yesteryear, where people lived, how they lived, what they loved …. not much care or love bestowed upon these stories.
There are some truly lovely Australian books for children – Alison Lester springs to mind in an instant – her stories and illustrations speak of such a love for Australia, its people, animals and environment. Fifteen years on, when we read Magic Beach it is still a slow, enchanted read. When I walk onto our favourite beaches I hear her words and see her pictures. But as soon as we step away from the Kinder Years there is little available “Australian” to keep nurturing our love for and fascination with what is right on our doorsteps.
So anyways – what I’m trying to say in my usual rambling way – is I want to embrace some sweet Australian please, ’cause I’m as guilty as the next person of dabbling in this cultural cringe. Since those long summer days by the beach, my head has been bursting with patterns and plans for quilts, appliques, embroidery – all manner of handwork – that tell Australian stories … of lighthouse families, and farm children, of black rock wallabies and the grey kangaroos that stop by Mum’s lawn for their nightly entree. Of fisher folk and shopkeepers. Of the ancient and crumbling mountains of Tilba Tilba, and the dazzling waters of the Sapphire Coast. Of gumnuts and lizards. Of elegant black swans and grizzly wombats. Of a little boy who spent his summer holidays delivering milk to the beach campers, drawn fresh from the urn and poured straight into the camper’s jug. Of a little girl who took her mama’s shopping list down the street to the butcher, the greengrocer and the corner store to collect the ingredients for that night’s supper and pull it home behind her in the little wagon her papa built.
Until these plans turn into more tangible things to share, I now have my May Gibbs fabric. Rina has a pillowcase. She almost has a laundry bag (I ran out of rickrack!). And there’s enough for a lap quilt for both her and us. I daresay my delight with this fabric will run further – mayhaps a nightie? The loveliest part of this particular fabric purchase is that the marvellous May Gibbs bequeathed the copyright of her Gumnut stories and illustrations to the Northcott Disability Service that cares for more than 10,000 families with children with a disability in New South Wales, and the Australian Cerebral Palsy Alliance. So with every inch of fabric we buy, money is given to support very vulnerable groups in our community.
The best bit of this long post – I want to share this little bit of sweet Australian – so, I’ve made up a small gift for one of you kind readers – 6 fat quarters of May Gibbs fabric that will come wrapped in a Lily Boot / May Gibbs pillowslip that is popped inside your own Lily Boot / May Gibbs laundry bag. Leave a comment below and I will draw the winning name on Sunday.
Now, I need to go fetch my umpteenth glass of water. And go to bed. With the fan blowing on me. Night-night!