Thursday, February 26, 2009

Back to Pouto


We used to call this Swan Lake. It's proper name is something like Kanonoto.

Tomorrow my kids and their families and I are heading off for a family together at Pouto, at the end of Pouto Peninsula, where we began our lives in Kiwiland.

Danny, Leone, Bernie and I arrived on 27 December, 1973. Justine asn’t born till 1977. Strange someone like me, who can’t remember what I had for breakfast and often struggles to remember what day of the week it is, should remember the date. My ex, Bryon, had come ahead a few days before as he’d driven our car (loaded to the hilt with all the worldly goods we were bringing with us) to Sydney for shipping and the kids and I spent Christmas with my family, the first I’d had at home since we had married in 1966 – and I had no idea how long it would be before it would happen again. We all holidayed at the beach at Caloundra and had a lovely time, despite 5 year old Leone clashing something awful with my father. Oh yes, there is another story there.

I’m so glad that my ex chose to take me to a place like Pouto. To a small, predominately Maori community where his relatives and the locals could teach me all that I needed learn on how to be a Kiwi farmer’s wife. And such a beautiful place! So much history. A huge contrast to Mt Isa, in north west Queensland, a big mining town with a great mix of nationalities. From the dry harshness of the west to this lush green paradise.

It is 69 km to Dargaville, the nearest town of any size, a scenic drive which wends through farmlands, pine plantations, passes lakes and horticultural blocks. That’s quite a distance from town by NZ standards but didn’t seem so to me at the time, being used to much greater distances between places in Queensland.

My first impressions? Green, green and green. Rolling hills. Treacherous road – I was used to dirt roads, not metal. Sea and harbour, lakes and sand dunes – and more lakes in the sand dunes. Oh, and shipwrecks. I thought, when Bryon’s cousins talked of going fishing to The Graveyard that they were using their nickname for a favourite fishing spot but no, it is so called because 150 ships are said to have gone down there. In certain tidal and sand conditions, the remains of wrecks are sometimes, even now, partially exposed offshore or in the sand.

The Pouto Peninsula is a coastal peninsula, about 55 km long. On the western side, the Tasman Sea crashes, while on the eastern side the waters of the Kaipara Harbour ebb and flow over large tidal mud flats and sand banks and through deep inlets. On the southern end the peninsula forms the north entrance to the Kaipara Harbour, with its infamous mouth and sandbar. This harbour is the largest in NZ (and at one time was the busiest) but is more famed as the most treacherous. Not that you would know it when you are within its confines.

Pouto is part of the ancestral land of the Te Uri o Hau hapu of Ngati Whatua. For Maori, the area had plentiful resources and easy access, and hence it came to be well populated following its settlement. Rosie, my neighbour, an old Maori lady who made it her mission to educate me in the folklore of the district, told me the local Maori were big and fat, happy go lucky, life was easy, food was plentiful and easy to gather and that those "savages" from up north would creep down the coast and raid their villages in search of the biggest and juiciest of them for "a good feed'. Half the time I didn't know whether to believe what she told me or not, she had such a wicked sense of humour! I loved that lady!

In recent years relics have been found of a civilisation thought to pre-date Maori settlement of the area. The early settlers came by sea. Maori came from central eastern Polynesia by sailing their waka (canoe) in many separate voyages, and (it now appears) on occasions made return journeys to their homelands. Later on, economic and social history has been founded on the need for safe passage of ships in and out of the Kaipara Harbour.

Both Abel Tasman in 1642 and James Cook in 1770 had sighted and made records of the coast but from the sea the huge harbour remained hidden.

Du Fresne in 1772 was the first European to identify the entranceway to the harbour, and also to recognize that the land was inhabited.

The Reverend Samuel Marsden is acknowledged to have been the first European to see Kaipara from the land. He was accompanied and assisted by hospitable local Maori. (See, Rosie told me they were good natured!) Information was gathered in 1831 with assistance from Parore, one of Kaipara’s principal chiefs, as to the qualities of the harbour. In 1836 this enabled the first two ships to make safe passage through the heads.

A lighthouse was erected on the last outcrop of sandstone, in 1884, along with two small cottages, sheds etc for the lighthouse keepers. The lighthouse switched to automation in November1947 and on that day the harbour was (and remains) closed to ships. So in that relatively short span of time 150 ships (and how many lives?) were lost. The Graveyard is aptly named.

The lighthouse remains (maintained by the Historic Places Trust), the oldest wooden lighthouse in NZ. It is a 7km walk from the end of the road, along the beach and the 85 odd metre climb up to it through thick sand was gruelling to me, even in the 70s. I might be able to manage the walk this time (if conditions are to my liking) but not sure about the climb.

I’m so looking forward to our ‘back to Pouto’ adventure.


Pouto Lighthouse

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gotta love a Northlander


Chris' roses

I have to leave my childhood stories for a day at least – life has just been so good and happy I feel compelled to share some of the sunshine I’ve been finding around me.


Yesterday afternoon I went over to my friend Chris’ place near Ruakaka for our weekly exercise class. When I got to the corner where I turn right to go south on S H 1, there were two cars waiting to turn right ahead of me and south bound traffic was at a stand still, backed up as far as the eye as seen in either direction. North bound traffic was slowly coming through but there was nothing happening for those travelling south. A minute or so later a utility came up behind me but positioned over to the left a bit so I could see he intended to turn left but there wasn’t enough space for him to get past me to make the turn.

I figured if I could back up a bit I could come forward another foot or two to the right and that might make space for him to go forward. So I put the car into reverse hoping he would see the reversing lights.

Watching him in the rear view mirror, I could see when he saw them and he too backed up. So I made the little manoeuvre (why doesn’t my spell check like traditional English spelling?) and he inched past with a toot and a wave. OK, so that’s my day made. Doesn’t matter how long I have to sit here waiting for this queue to clear and have a chance to make the right turn. I’ve been nice to someone and they have appreciated it. And I’m keeping my promise to myself to be happy in small ways.

But my day just got better. The south bound queue began to slowly inch forward. The first vehicle ahead of me was a school mini bus so I wasn’t terribly surprised when, almost immediately someone waved them to come across into the stream of traffic. After all ,most of us know how worrying it can be if the school bus is late. But within seconds the car immediately in front of me was given the go ahead by another courteous driver. Thinking well those two got lucky but not to worry I’m in a good mood and no great hurry, I hardly noticed that the very next vehicle was also stopping and a man was giving me the come across and get in front of me signal. Bloody hell, I was so busy smiling and waving my thanks to the driver, I practically zigzagged across the road to take my place in the traffic.

This being happy in small ways lark (thank you, Edith Wharton) is just the best idea I’ve ever come across. Honestly! I was driving down that road, shouting with delight, “I love living in Northland. I love Northlanders. Would this happen anywhere else?” Maybe. Don’t know. But it happens here where I live and that’s what’s important to me.

So you’d think my day couldn’t get any better, right? Wrong. My friend Chris is a warm, positive constant in my life and I hadn’t seen her for a couple weeks. She surprised me with a belated birthday present and I just adore it.


My birthday boat

Isn’t that beautiful? I love the rich, vibrant, cheerful colours and I love boats of any shape and size. It’s painted on glass so it sparkles and shines and it’s also beautiful to touch. You can feel the anchor rope and oars so it must go somewhere where I can touch it occasionally and see it often. The kitchen I think.

And, as if that weren’t enough I also received other goodies by way of a thank you for house-sitting for her recently, when she had to go home to Western Australia unexpectedly for her brother's funeral. As if I need thanking – what are friends for?! It’s sheer pleasure to spend time every day in her lovely garden in the company of her lovely dogs and cat. Love the little book of poems by poet Philip Rush titled “Australian Poems that would Captivate a Koala”.



See the little gumnut bookmark sticking his head out?

And when you turn over the little gumnut there is it’s cute little bare bum.


Aww, too cute!

Who wouldn’t be smiling?!

Then there was a bottle of Boronia perfume, made from the native Aussie Boronia plant. Lovely fragrance and I just have to picture the Boronia flowers to appreciate it even more. And...and...yes, there was more! A gift voucher to the hairdresser we both go to who has recently added a beauty salon to her business.


Boronia images

How spoilt am I?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rising Fast


Rain up the creek

Because my family lived in the city when we were children, our only experience of floods was when we went to Grandma and Grandad’s on holidays. One holidays the creek was flooding when we arrived, and the flooding had got worse while Grandad was in town collecting us from the railway station. There were just the 5 oldest of us. We must have had a few stops in Laidley for Grandad to pick up supplies, have a yarn with other farmers who were in town that day, and no doubt there was another stop at the Mulgowie Pub (that stop was almost compulsory).

It was dark by the time we got to the usual creek crossing. There was no way Grandad could drive across, so we headed further up the road and Grandad rang Gran from my great-grandmother’s house. We then ploughed our way along the creek bank to what was considered the best place to get us all across the creek. That was a mission in itself - darkness, blinding rain, slippery muddy ground, difficult to see our way through the trees and scrub that flourished along the bank of the creek. But I doubt any of us complained, it would have taken more than that to diminish the joy of our arrival at the farm, at being with Grandad, doing something a bit different. And Grandad could always keep our spirits up, he was such a happy man. I remember him joking about finding out how well we could swim but knowing there was no way he could expect Tricia, the youngest present, to swim across the creek, we didn’t take him seriously.

When we got to the chosen spot we were already soaked, and Grandma and my two uncles were already there, having waded across to our side. We formed a chain with Grandma in the lead, holding Esme’s hand with one hand and a hurricane lamp in the other, Uncle George, Peter, and Grandad in the middle directing operations, then Tricia, Uncle Reg, Dennis, and me. I badly wanted an adult’s hand to hold on to rather than dreamy Dennis’ but always knew how to put on a brave front. It seemed a long, long way across that creek, I can tell you. I was so scared Dennis would let go of my hand as I was the last in the line. But the worst bit was hearing Grandad yelling “Hold on to her, Reg! Hold on to her!” And being able to see, in the light from Gran’s lamp, Tricia floating, her feet unable to touch the bottom and the force of the water taking her legs away.

When we got to the other side, Gran lit the other lamp she had left there and we made our way along the creek bank, everyone cold and wet but poor little Tricia looked more like a drowned rat. But she wasn’t crying. She may have wanted to but would have been shivering too hard to manage it. She was a tough little kid, two older brothers and two older sisters probably made her that way.

Gran’s place had never seemed more welcome to us. All of us were stripped off while Gran carried kettles of hot water to the bathroom and we all jumped in together. Grandma, Grandad and the uncles rubbed us dry before taking it in turns to share the bath water. There was no electricity (no hot water on tap) at the farm in those days and I guess most of the hot water on the stove had been used already.

Then there was hot food and hot drinks and much talking and laughter about our ‘adventure’, with Grandad making it sound even more adventurous than it already had been, by adding bits about the snakes he had seen, and how his hand had been slipping and he’d nearly let go of Trish. Little Tricia was made much of, and deserved every bit of the attention I thought.

Years and years later, around 1973 Bryon (my ex husband) and I and our children were visiting my grandparents in early November. We decided to take Grandma into town (Laidley) to watch the Melbourne Cup at their favourite pub. (She liked to have a little ‘flutter’ on the Cup every year and would pick out a horse based on something that had happened in the district recently. She made a killing in 1954 on Rising Fast, based on the creek coming up fast. That may have been the year I have just been talking about.)

Uncle George came in while we were there with Brian Osborne, a cousin of Mum’s. Because we had the three kids with us I said I would sit outside while everyone else watched in the public bar where the TV was but the publican would have none of that and invited us all upstairs to his private quarters, and we all spread out on his bed. One of my uncles on Dad’s side of the family was already comfortable there waiting for the race.

While the race was on there was a phone call from Grandad saying there had been a lot of rain at the top of the creek and the creek was coming down and that we had better head for home quick.

So we all set out, in 3 vehicles – ours, Uncle George’s and Brian Osborne’s (who had decided to come with us to visit Grandad). As we went along there was more and more water across the road and water was lapping the underside of the last bridge, but Grandma was in with us and gave Bryon advise about which side of the road to drive on through the flood water, etc. Gran, as usual, was totally unfazed and treating it all as "a bit of a lark".

When we got to the creek the rain was steady and we all got out to have a look at the crossing and the men decided we could get across. There was no way was I letting my babies go across in our car until I was convinced it was OK, so George went first and took the right hand fork in the road on the other side. That one went up to Gran’s; the one straight ahead went up a little hill then turned left to Uncle George’s house. Brian Osborne went next and parked behind him. They were waving at us to come across and for Bryon to go straight ahead. So away we went, made the crossing quite uneventfully but instead of stopping as soon as we got to the other side, for some unknown reason, Bryon went up the little hill. I was shouting, “Slow down! Stop!” and Gran was shouting, “Left! Turn left!” but he went straight ahead – into the pumpkin patch!

Laugh! There was no way we could get that car out of that mud. Gran and the kids and I were taken up to the house to get dry and clean (we got quite muddy getting out of the car and out of the pumpkin patch) while the men went for a tractor but the car was stuck. It was days before they could get it out. But no-one ever complained about extended visits “up the creek”.


Rain clearing from the mountains

Monday, February 23, 2009

Country of my Heart



Since writing yesterday's post, I've been thinking about Australia's 'natural disasters'. Fire can often follow drought, and drought can be followed by flood.

Then I got to thinking about heatwaves and wondered about their effect. I didn't know this: "Heatwaves are the most underrated of the natural disasters, as the bushfires that accompany many heatwaves tend to get most of the attention, and in Australia they have caused the greatest loss of life of any natural hazard (except disease)."

Natural disaster has come to be seen as part of the Australian national character. Dorothea McKellar wrote 'My Country', the poem all Australians (of my generation at least, don't know about those of today) know and love, in 1904 and one verse is ringing in my ears.

I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror - the wide brown land for me!

The resilience of Australians is often most apparent in times of crisis. I read somewhere that a trauma specialist said the typically Australian 'she'll be right' mentality is invaluable in time of crisis, and Australian's are 'pretty bloody resilient'. The victims of disasters in Australia tend to adopt the attitude that 'the main thing is we're alive - it's only bricks and mortar'. Or, as Ned Kelly said as he uttered his last words before he was hanged "Such is life."



I was going to leave it at that but decided to take a break and read today's newspapers as I was feeling a bit emotional. Yes, even after all these years of living in Kwiland I still get homesick at times. And I read in the paper about Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's speech at Australia's National Day of Mourning (yesterday) for those lost in the bushfires. Here is part of it:

"Let us resolve today that from this time forth, on every 7th of February, this nation's flags will fly at half mast," Mr Rudd said.

"This nation will pause for a moment's silence."



Mr Rudd said the victims had given fresh voice to the values of courage and resilience and the firefighter's helmet now commanded as much respect as the slouch hat of old.

"When the histories of nations are written, there are times which sorely test each nation's soul," he said.

"This nation Australia has just been put to such a test.

''You have faced the test, and you have not been found wanting."

Mr Rudd said Australians understood courage – "we know it by instinct, we see it, we feel it" – and knew it had been displayed countless times on and since February 7.

"Courage is a firefighter standing at the gates of hell, unflinching and unyielding,'' he said.

''Courage is neighbour saving neighbour . . . stranger saving stranger."


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Floods


Thirsting for rain - the dry creek bed in the foreground

Floods and bushfires are part of Australian bush life. Bushfires were never a big issue in the area where my grandparents lived. They happened but not to the extent that we have seen over the years in Victoria. Sometimes during a storm (I must write about the storms one day, they had terrific storms!) there would be a lightning strike in the mountains and any fire that resulted would be watched carefully but nothing drastic ever happened as a result. To us kids it was an interesting diversion to daily life. If we knew about the use of the modern “cool” we would have said it was cool to watch the fires come up one side of the valley, run around the back of the house to watch it continue on its course and guess whether it would go back down the other side of the valley. Grandad would sometimes mount his horse and ride off to see how far down the mountain it had come, whether he had lost any fences, but that was not a venture in which we were permitted to join him.

But floods were a different story. They were a very real part of life in this valley. The creek played a vital part in the welfare of the valley with its beautiful fertile cropping soil and highly producing creek flats. I remember terrible floods when I was a girl and Grandad saying they were the worst he had seen in his lifetime. Both he and Grandma had grown up along the banks of the creek.

Grandad had a wonderful way of teaching us to respect the power of nature. During those bad floods he took the four oldest of us down to the creek for an up close look (two on each side of him, Esme and Peter holding his hands and me and Dennis on the outside of them holding their hands). The rest of the kids had to be satisfied looking at the little gully behind the house which had turned into something quite impressive. We had grown used to the background roar from the creek during the previous two days but couldn't even hear Grandad when we got close to it. The lovely clean, clear water of our creek had turned a murky, dirty brown and was rushing along at a frightening speed, carrying branches and trees and two cows, one dead, one still alive, and a snake.

Grandad let go of our hands, one at a time, a little way into the creek so we could feel the force of the water. Being the oldest I felt I had to go one step further than the others, still only knee deep, and it was terrifying although there was no way I would let on.

It was all so long ago but when I sit and think about it, it all comes flooding (no pun intended) back. I think one of the advantages of growing older and not having my mind on so many other things, is I can allow myself the luxury of staring at a wall and allowing my mind to go back to visit my youth.

Those floods happened during our seven-week Christmas holidays. When it first started raining we rejoiced that there would be water in the creek for swimming. The first thing we always did when we got to Grandma and Grandad's was check the creek for water holes. That big flood changed the path of the creek forever; the swimming water holes were never as good afterwards. Or maybe I was growing up and not taking as much pleasure from the activities of my earlier childhood.

The flood washed away the vehicle track we used to get from the road to the house; the creek was left much wider and therefore the water holes more shallow.

The best water hole was a fair way from the house, around the roots of a tree that had been washed away, leaving just the dead roots in the middle of the creek and the deep hole that had been gouged around it.

It wasn't a very big hole, the tree roots took up most of the space, there were no shallow edges and the water was very deep in close to the roots. So, although it was great for the older kids, it was rather dangerous for the younger ones who couldn't swim. The hole itself was in a lovely sunny spot with shady trees close by.

The next best hole was in the opposite direction and much closer to the house, in a wide section of the creek. There was lots of shallow water along one bank and it got very gradually deeper until you were nearly to the other side. But the other side was hard up against a steep hill, which we could not climb up. That side was always in the shadow of the hill in the afternoon and the trees were thick on the shallow side, so that it always appeared gloomy.

After that big flood I had to learn about negotiation and trade offs. Yes, we could go for a swim as long as we took the little ones along. If I had not been behaving responsibly either that or the previous day (like the day Michael nearly drowned in the dangerous hole) I would not be entrusted with the kids at the “dangerous hole” and we would have to go to the "Dark Hole" as we used to call it. Then, of course, Peter would vent his displeasure at me. And when Peter was pissed off he could be a real handful. He had a terrible temper and would go off like a firecracker. Denis was always easy going, Esme and Tricia were not born water babies like Peter and didn't particularly care where we went. Danny and Bernie were also water babes but were young enough to not care which water they went in as long as it was water.

I think I started to learn techniques on “How to Handle Difficult People” after that flood. The fact that I didn’t purposely drown Peter speaks for itself. He turned into the Brother from Hell every time we had to go to the “Dark Hole”. He had always been adventurous and competitive, always determined to keep up with, if not beat, we three older kids, and he hated the Dark Hole because it was so tame and safe and “babyish”. When he got shitty he would make life miserable for Esme (one older) and Tricia (one younger). He’d have them both in tears given half a chance and that would mean that I’d be in trouble when we got home and Esme went crying to Gran. Thank heavens Dennis was such an easy going bugger, although at the time I wished he wasn’t such a dreamer and would share some of the responsibility I had as the oldest. I was sure if someone said to him “You’re the oldest boy, it’s your responsibility” he would stop being a dreamer and be responsible, but I guess I was the dreamer thinking that.

So it seemed to me that big flood altered our lives.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Getting there

When going to my grandparents’ farm for the school holidays, the adventure started the minute we left home. There was no car in the family until after I was married. If we were poor we didn’t know it, we were well fed and always had decent clothes to wear. OK, the clothes may have been hand-me-downs but we always had something new that Mum had sewed for us. The miles she must have clocked up treadling that old Singer sewing machine. She must have thought she was made when she had a small motor attached to it! And when she wasn’t sewing, she was knitting. My friends families had more than we did but I can’t remember ever being jealous of them. Anyway, there was no car, and for the most part there was no need for one. We lived about a mile from our school and the church. When we needed to go further afield we took the train.

Oh, how well I remember those dreaded trips into the city to visit the dental clinic where our dental hygiene was taken care of by supervised dental students. It must have been our low family income that made us eligible for free treatment at this clinic. And I think they were meant to be final year students but, even at a young and innocent age, I wondered what sort of real dentists some of them would make. I remember a Mr Booth who drilled out the wrong tooth, the supervisor pointed out the mistake, he filled it and then, can you believe it, he drilled out the same tooth again! There I was pinned in this chair, trying to wave my arms around, being told to ‘sit still’, trying to make myself understood by emitting guttural sounds, being told to ‘be quiet”, trying to transmit messages through the top of his head as he bent to his task. Finally the supervisor decided to do some supervising, once again pointed out to the young man his mistake, then announced there was no more time for more treatment today, I would have to come back next week. I was glad today’s nightmare was over, and I had another week to prepare myself for the next session.

There must have been 20 dental chairs in one big room and every time I entered that room after that I’d know it was going to be a pretty good day if the dreaded young Mr Booth didn’t come in my direction. I was terrified of him! My sister, Esme, had some real dental problems and got to see a ‘proper’ dentist, I’m sure I did a fair bit of complaining about that.

But, as is my way, I digress. Come school holiday time we would set out for Laidley on the train. First up was the ride into the city, but to get to Laidley we went past the familiar Central Station to Roma Street Station and this station seemed much bigger and more confusing. Poor Mum, with all those suitcases and all those kids in tow, had to get us all from one platform to another. There would have been 5 of us when she started making those journeys. And things only got worse over time as the family grew. I think I was about 12 when I was deemed responsible enough to make the journey with a few of the younger ones the day after the holidays started.

From Roma Street we would board the train to Ipswich. This train always seemed crowded which, of course, meant we had to be well behaved. At Ipswich we would change trains once again and board the Toowoomba train - fewer passengers and fewer restrictions. And, of course, our excitement would be building. Now we were really on our way, count the tunnels, wait for Grandchester Station, one more long tunnel (the longest), just a bit further, round a big sweeping bend and we would be there. The grass that grew beside the railway line around that sweeping corner was always greener and better than any we had seen along the way. And we could judge by its green-ness or lack of it whether there had been recent rain, whether there was likely to be water (and swimming holes) in the creek.

Next we would be pulling into Laidley station, heads out the windows to see who would be first to see who was there to meet us. Sometimes Grandma and Grandad in Grandad’s utility truck (yay, a trip up the creek in the back of the truck sitting on suitcases, hair flying, yelling to each other to be heard), sometimes an uncle or aunt. How times have changed.

When I reached that age of responsibility when I was trusted to venture forth without an adult, we would occasionally be told before leaving home that no one would be meeting us at the station we were to take the mail car ‘up the creek’ to Mrs Day’s place which was the end of the line for mail delivery, the post office and telephone exchange. So we would lug our bags around to the Post Office, where we were always expected, and be told how long we would have to wait before the mail car left. All the mail men over the years knew who we were and were always friendly. The mail and parcels would be loaded and we would clamber in and, until the van emptied as we made our way along the road, it was a bit of a tight squeeze sometimes.



The road heading 'up the creek'


We might have lived in the city but we were country kids at heart and knew the best way to open a conversation and to get any local talking was to enquire about the weather. And if we could throw in, “Oh look, Mr .. is irrigating his pumpkins!” we thought we’d get double points. We’d find and hand to the driver the mail and parcels for all his customers. I remember once he said, “Fetch those eggs there for Mrs ... Careful! That’s the second time this week she’s wanted eggs and last time one was broken. Don’t want you kids to get the blame.”




Checking out farms along the way


As we went further along the road, the farms would become more and more familiar and into the area where most of the farms belonged to relatives, some distant, some close. We'd pass by my paternal grandparents old family home and inspect it for changes.



The Ward old family home

The driver would tell us any recent gossip about any other them and we wouldn’t be able to wait to get to the farm to tell Grandad – he did so love a bit of gossip.

Finally we’d be where we’d been longing to be since leaving home in Nudgee - Townson. Nearly there! If there was no-one there to meet us (the mail-man would joke that he’d made good time with helpers on board) Mrs Day would ring Gran and sooner or later we’d hear a car coming to collect us. Then just a quick whizz up the road and there would be the creek crossing, from where we could see across the cultivated paddocks to the farm house nestled in under the hills.

Over the creek crossing we would go, sharp eyes peering left and right for any sign of water, giving our driver an ear bashing, constantly asking about swimming holes. Up the farm track alongside the creek, we’d have necks craning for a better look, turn left, a little rise and there it would be – the farmhouse and the warmest of welcomes!

Holidays in the 50s


This is an old photo (from the 70s when photos never retained their true colours) taken from the mountains at the back of my maternal grandparents' farm, looking down the valley - or, as the locals say, "down the creek".

When we arrived on holidays at the farm, Grandad would always fill us in on where wallabies and dingoes had been sighted, and how many snakes had been seen lately. If a snake had been killed recently it would be hanging over the fence for us to look at and to learn to identify the different sorts (and to remind us of their danger). The house was only about six steps high and they had a huge birdcage under it, right beside the front steps. Gran would trap parrots down along the creek before we arrived so we always had some to look at and learn about.

Holidays were spent running wild around the hills and along the creek. We always had an ‘expedition’ into the mountains in search of wallabies and once we even managed to get up close to them. One special memory is a holiday when I was about 17 and the only one staying at the farm. Grandad said the wallabies had been coming down to drink in the evening in the Top Paddock, the one closest to the mountains. So, he and I set out on foot shortly after lunchtime with just a drink of water each.

We found a good spot under some bushes and settled down on our bellies to wait. It seemed a long afternoon. It was hot and got uncomfortable and we only spoke occasionally in whispers. But we were rewarded. Just as I was giving up hope, Grandad poked me in the ribs and pointed. And sure enough, what looked like three families of wallabies were approaching. They came up to the water hole slowly, warily, and I was sure my breathing would frighten them away. But they drank, then played for a while before hopping away. It was such a special moment and extra special to be sharing it with my Grandad. It wasn’t until I was 50 and living in North Queensland that I got to see wallabies in their natural environment like that again.

There was usually a parrot trapping expedition as well but these only made us wonder at Gran’s skill. We used the same equipment she used but without the same results; we lacked the timing. We’d have a box with the lid missing. This would be turned upside down and propped up with a little stick attacked to a length of string. Seeds the birds liked (Gran always knew which seeds to use) would be placed under the box and the idea was when a bird went under the box to eat the seeds, we would pull the string and trap it. To start with we weren’t very good at sitting quietly under a bush, and on the rare occasions when we did and a bird approached we would either pull the string too soon, or, in our excitement, make a noise that frightened it away.


The creek

The creek and gully had to be explored every holiday in search of water holes, swimming holes and goannas. I remember one big old goanna inhabited the same place for years. It was exciting on the first day of the holidays to climb a little hill and come down it on the other side on our bellies to see if we could spot him laying in the sun. We only had that one chance because he was a wary old devil and would disappear after our first day on the scene. I guess we were a noisy bunch!

A favourite activity was sliding down the hill on the other side of the gully from the house on cardboard or flour sacks. Cardboard was best but wasn’t always available. At the bottom of the hill was a barbed wire fence and the thrill was not baling off before the fence but to go under it at full speed. We knew that if we weren’t laying flat, we would be cut to pieces. That game was forbidden for a while after Bernie, who was always so fearless in his attempts to keep up with the older kids, lifted his head at the wrong time and was nearly scalped. He was only about four and there was blood everywhere! He was a tough little bugger, didn’t cry or carry on, and was all for keeping it a secret, but there was no way we could with all that blood on his clothes.

Grandad had a horse called Orphan Boy which had been around for as long as I could remember. When we were old enough we were allowed to ride him to bring in the cows. It seems he had been ridden by at least one generation of kids before us because he knew all the tricks on getting rid of his rider. It would be a battle of wits, keeping him away from overhanging branches or logs on the ground, as he loved to jump or wipe his rider off on a low hanging branch. I also had to make sure I didn’t approach fences or gates at a gallop or he would be up and over it before I could slow him down, leaving me on the ground on the other side. I also learned the hard way not to go too fast near corner posts. I spent days with my leg in bandages before I learnt that one.

I was glad when Grandad considered me a good enough rider to move on to another horse and for the younger kids to learn how to ride on Orphan Boy. Whenever we went ‘exploring’ or on an ‘expedition’ we were always accompanied by one of Grandad’s blue heeler dogs. He always had one that was a ‘snake dog’ and this one would be our companion whenever we left the house. The dog always trotted on ahead and we kept an eye on him to see if he was showing interest in anything or ‘pointing’ to something. If the dog stopped and stared at something in the grass or amongst the trees we would turn around and race back to the house. We only ever doubted the dog once and went looking to see what it was interested in and Dennis nearly stepped on a snake. We never hesitated to run after that.


Me, left and my sister, Esme aged around 7 and 5 I think.
And, yes, I think I still have that grin!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Aussie childhood


My sister, Tricia's painting of original farm house

There are so many things in my life that I am grateful for, starting with where I grew up and the wonderful family into which I was born. I like to tell people my parents were so impressed with me, the oldest, that they decided they’d like a dozen of me. But the truth is my dad comes from good Irish Catholic stock and the change that swept through the world with the introduction of birth control was not felt in our household.

An early (and constant) influence in our lives were our grandparents. Dad’s mother was a quiet, demure, gentle little lady who I don’t remember as saying much but who often smiled gently. I’m sure she was made of sterner stuff than was evident to us in her old age. After all, she gave birth to 14 children and raised 12 of them when times were tough indeed. My dad was one of the youngest with a younger brother and 2 younger sisters. There is just one sister, Aunty Maisie left alive now and many lingering and fond memories of some of the others. Their lives were a testimony to their faith; they practised Christianity in its purest form.

Dad’s mother was roughly the same age as my maternal great grandmother who lived a creek and a paddock away from Grandma and Grandad Osborne. Whereas Grandma Ward was genteel and always seemed to be sitting in her easy chair when we visited, Great-granny Crosby was always on the go. Grandma Ward lived in retirement in a stately old home in Sandgate a
seaside suburb of Brisbane (only 4 train stations and a bus ride from where we lived) with her oldest spinster daughter, Aunty Dolly, who appeared to be “in charge”. The house was spotless, no clutter, no marks on the gleaming polished wood floors.

During the holidays we stayed with Grandma and Grandad Osborne but during school term we visited Grandma Ward regularly on Sundays. Mum would see that we were scrubbed and dressed in our best Sunday clothes, clean white socks and polished shoes, hair tidy, and Dad would take us to visit. These were not fun Sunday outings; in the presence of Dad and his family we were always conscious of the need to behave. No hanging out train windows getting soot on ourselves from the old steam train and mucking up our hair. No raised voices except Dad’s keeping us in line.

Reaching the Sandgate railway station was a relief as it was easier staying clean on the bus and therefore stay out of disgrace with Dad – and Aunty Dolly. Somehow we developed a ritual for when we arrived at Grandma Ward’s. Firstly we would take our shoes off at the door and line them up neatly by size, then traipse into the lounge room. I would sit on one end of a long lounge chair with the youngest brother or sister beside me, Dennis the next oldest of us would sit on the other end with the next youngest beside him and the other younger ones would be between us. And it would be up to the older ones to keep the younger under control. If any of the littlies misbehaved it always seemed to be MY fault, as Dad would say, “Pauline!” in his sternest voice. No wonder my younger brothers and sisters thought I was bossy for years!

But there were no rituals when we went up to the farm to Mum’s family. There was no sitting on ceremony, although we were regularly scrubbed and dressed up on Sundays to visit my Great-grandmother. We loved these visits because we liked to see Gran dressed up in her Sunday best. She looked so elegant and beautiful when she did her hair in her “fancy” style with deep waves on the sides of her hair and her bun secured with a pretty comb more loosely than on other days. I would wait with interest to see what broach she was going to wear and if she would put on a necklace. Her outfit wouldn’t be complete till we had crossed the creek when the stockings and gloves were put on, no matter how hot the day. Then, armed with towels, our shoes and socks in our hands, we would race down to the creek. The crossing place was shallow with lots of stepping stones, so our feet didn’t get dirty, just wet. On the other side, we’d add our shoes and socks and set off through Great Uncle Dave’s (Grandma’s brother who farmed the home farm) paddock. Crops were grown in the rich soil of this paddock so our shoes would have a layer of dirt (mud if it was being irrigated) and our socks far from their original white.

How we loved my Gran’s childhood home. Before it was moved to its current site it had been Laidley’s first hospital. A grand staircase led up to a wide verandah around three sides that had beautiful white wrought iron work. From the top of the steps you could go straight into a long hallway with rooms off either side. Living rooms on one side, bed rooms off the other. The far end of the corridor lead out to a walkway which was covered in corrugated iron, and had a hand rail but no sides. This lead to another verandah in front of the kitchen, which was one huge room, it’s length being the width of the house. A monstrous wood stove was down one end with a worktable, cupboards, etc and dining table and chairs down the other. Either table would easily
sit 12 people, but we rarely sat in there, as it was cooler out on the verandah. We would be given a cool drink of cordial and a piece of cake while Gran and her mother had a cup of tea. Then we would proceed to the other part of the house and sit on the side verandah facing the creek.

The move from one verandah to the other was the signal that the formal part of the day was over. Off would come the shoes and socks and we’d take off, usually to the creek to check out the Top Crossing – a concrete causeway. The only time an adult would reprimand us was if we chased Great-granny’s chooks. Occasionally we would run up the back of the house and visit Gran’s brother Dave and his family, but Aunty Laura wasn’t the best cook in the world and being expected to eat her offerings was a bit off-putting. We were raised to think we must eat food that was offered to us, so unless we were still hungry after eating Great-granny’s offering, we regarded Aunty Laura’s food as a bit of a trial.

These Sunday visits took about two hours I guess because we would always set out after lunch and sometimes we would leave our togs at the crossing on the way over and have a swim there on the way home.

We all loved Grandma and Grandad Osborne in a special way. They had the gift of making each of us feel special and never compared any of us to each other or to other cousins, whereas I always felt that we never quite measured up to Grandma Ward’s expectations. After Grandma Osborne died Esme, Tricia and I held a wake for her at the Irish Club in Mt Isa. We laughed till we cried, then laughed some more. All our memories of her were so positive! But the highlight of the night was when Esme announced that she had been Gran’s favourite! I couldn’t believe that she could possibly think that, as I knew that I had been her favourite but Tricia had the same belief. What a gift!

Grandad loved to tell us stories. Our Ward family tree tells us Ward means the Bard, the story-teller but I think the joy of spinning a yarn comes from Mum’s parents. Grandad’s best stories were about Tommy Day, an old bachelor who lived not far down the road who Grandad lead us to believe was “not all there” and Uncle Cecil who lived right at the end of the road and had been in Mum’s class at school. Tommy spoke with a high pitched, slow voice and Grandad could imitate him perfectly. Mind you, I think Tommy got his own back at least once. One day Tommy
came across a couple of men trapping parrots in Grandad’s Dam Paddock, the entry to which was opposite Day’s house. Tommy told them he wasn’t going to make trouble for them but to watch out for the old guy up the creek – “He’s as mad as a cut snake”. The trappers later went further up the creek where they came across Grandad and told him the story, asking where the mad old guy lived. Grandad thought it was a huge joke and told us they had been referring to Uncle Cecil.

He used “Uncle Cecil” to keep us from getting lost when we ventured into the mountains at the end of the road. He would tell us to follow the creek with a warning “Stay away from the road or you’ll go past Uncle Cecil’s house and he will come out and chase you.” We fell for his instructions hook, line and sinker, believing that if we went off the track we were to follow once we got to the next creek crossing (past the end of the road) we would be straying too close to Uncle Cecil’s property and goodness knows what would happen to us. Mum told me much later that Cecil, had indeed, been a bully and Grandad was right to warn us about him. He used to ride a horse to school and would charge it straight at any youngsters who were walking.

We spent all our school holidays up on the farm at Townson. The road from Laidley followed the creek up the valley towards its source in the mountains and everything was either ‘up the creek’ or ‘down the creek’. Only Grandma’s mother and brother and Uncle Cecil lived further up the creek. From there you started climbing up into the mountains. The mountain range formed a U at the back of the house with mountains running back down either side.


The farm as it is today

Time now to sit and reminisce and come up with more memories of my wonderful childhood.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My thoughts are with bushfire victims



Fear rips through me
Like bushfire flames.

Seizes the heart and squeezes,
wringing out happiness and security.

The warmth of the sun,
the glory of the day
is lost in darkness.

Is there a way to survive this season?


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Uncle Bernie sends directions to Brazil

I've been in Auckland for a few days. While I was away I received a reply from my son Bernie to my recent post of "Georgia goes to Brazil".

Here it is:

Hello Georgia, its your Uncle Bernie here, I want to pass on to you some instructions for you to come to Brazil, so that next time you can come and visit me.

Tell Doofus to fly to Langs Beach and then to continue flying over the sea, she will need to fly and fly and fly, there is a lot of sea to fly over, the entire width of the Pacific Ocean! If you like you can stop off at Easter Island, I don’t know why its called Easter Island, there are no easter eggs there, but they have some very big statues – could it be that there are easter eggs inside the statues?

After that continue to fly east again, soon you will come to Chile, I don’t know why it’s called Chile but when you get there I am sure you will find it very chilly! You can stop here a little bit and visit the giant ice glacier, higher than a rugby field! Here you can see huge chunks of ice falling from the glacier into the light blue glacier lake below, you can also see mountains which look like they have been chopped in half!



After that go north, straight up, you will fly over the Andies Mountains and some of the highest mountains in the world, mountains that are twice as high as the highest mountains in New Zealand! They are so high that it is difficult to breath, the air is so thin. Tell Doofus to keep on flying until she reaches a huge desert, have a stop here to look, it’s really interesting, the Atacama dessert is the driest dessert in the world! It hasn’t rained here for 100’s of years! It is like being on the moon, there are also lots of active volcanoes around with smoke rising from their peaks.



Keep flying just a little more and you will come to a huge lake – made of salt!!! Imagine that! It is white as far as the eye can see, and in the middle there is a little island with cactus (cacti) everywhere! Huge cactus taller than you and me!



After that fly east again, soon you will come to the giant Iguaçu falls, the most amazing waterfalls in the world! Wow! Look at all that water fall! So many waterfalls! Look at the rainbows forming in the middle of the waterfalls! Stop here and have a little swim in the warm water below and let Doofus have a drink and a quick rest.



Now you can fly north again, look down, you will see lots and lots of flooded land, remember how your Dad’s farm gets floods sometimes? Well, here is always flooded! Remember how lots of birds go to water in the flood? This is the same, thousands of birds live here, but watch out if you want to land - lots of crocodiles live here to, other animals too, like deer and jaguar! So I suggest you don’t stop here, keep going!



When the land is dry again and turns real flat, you can turn right a little bit, when you see a big city surrounded by mountains, then you have come to my city, it is called Belo Horizonte, which means beautiful horizon. I know Doofus can’t land at the airport but there is a big lake called Pampulha which has a funny shaped church and lots of other ducks for Doofus to talk to. The ducks there can tell you where I live.



See you soon!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Waitangi Day

It’s a big day here in enzed (NZ). Waitangi Day and the start of the Rugby 7s tournament in Wellington. The sevens is subtitled the country’s biggest party. I don’t think it usually happens around Waitangi Day and if it has, I would have been more interested in the Sevens. The crowd at the Sevens celebrates in a way I would love to see Kiwis celebrate their national day – with a free spirit and a passion for what they love. Waitangi Day celebrations haven’t really been a celebration for yonks, but this year there is a change. I know ‘change’ is a bit of a hackneyed word in recent times, it’s been used big time in the States (and with good reason as far as I can see) but we here at the lower end of the earth have also been embracing it. It seemed to me, watching telecasts from Waitangi this morning that Aunty Helen’s oppressiveness has gone (for those not in the know, Helen Clark our former PM).

I was honestly astounded to see, in an interview, a happy, laughing Pita Sharples, the co-leader of the Maori Party. And that Titewhai Harawira, that battle hardened, outspoken activist for the best part of 50 years, also looking relaxed and smiling. Never thought I would see the day when I would agree with her. To prove it, I have just checked the spelling of her Christian name instead of calling her that Harawira woman like I usually do. That’s what happens when the parties (and I don’t just mean the political parties) talk to each other. And Pita Sharples coined what I hope will become a new phrase - “time to clean up the river.” I loved that!

Now I really must get back to watching the Sevens. The USA has already beaten Fiji so you never know, there might be another upset or two.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Georgia goes to Brazil

“I’m going to tell you a story today. It’s called Doofus and Georgia go to Brazil to see Uncle Bernie.”

“Just wait a tick while I get a coffee and get comfy. Are you going to read it or tell it, Georgia?” I asked.

“Tell it from my ‘magination’” is the reply and began her story.

“Georgia went out into the garden and found Doofus hiding under a tree. He had grown huge, bigger than any duck you’ve ever seen. Georgia was very happy. She wanted Doofus to take her to Brazil to see Uncle Bernie.

He said he would and Georgia climbed on to his back. They circled the farm to say goodbye then went down to the creek and followed it out to sea. They flew a long way, Doofus knew the way.

“Did they fly high up in the clouds or down low near the waves?” I asked.

“A bit up high, a bit down low because it is very boring on plane trips. They saw sharks and whales in the sea! That’s when they went up high. They saw black rain clouds and went the other way. They saw Brazil but Doofus and Georgia didn’t know where Uncle Bernie lived, they didn’t know whether to turn right or to turn left, so they came back home again.”

“Oh, what a shame!” said Granny. “Next time go to the airport and ring Uncle Bernie to come and meet you!”

“Granny, why are you always so silly! You know ducks can’t land at airports!”

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Stop/Go guy

Why is it that people who do the most boring, monotonous job were the ones to bring the joy into my life today? Not that I was needing a joy injection, I’d been driving quite happily into town, very proud of myself when I reached the sealed road that I dodged every single pot hole down our road. Too often my mind wanders while I drive and I forget to stay wide on this corner, keep in close on that and wham! I am potholed again. But not today, today I was master of the dirt road. So yes, all was well in my world!

On the other side of the village I noticed a cloud of dust, then roadwork’s. The guy holding the Stop/Go sign raised it and wiggled it a bit to get my attention. (I admit I may have been approaching a bit on the fast side and he was probably concerned for his future.) In my day to day quietly-at-home-on-the-farm life I don’t talk to many people and when I go out, tend to speak to other motorists or animals I pass. I don’t feel the need to share the details but I can’t let a fast car, or a slow car or a good looking animal go by. Naturally, a man wiggling his Stop sign could not be ignored. As the car slowed I said to myself something like, “OK, buddy, I see ya, keep your hair on.” And to atone for giving him a fright (more likely he was very annoyed thinking oh no here comes another one who’s going to spray me with stones and dust), when he gave me the Go sign, I gave him the usual wave - and a smile.

You should have seen the smile I got back! Took me by surprise, I can tell you. So often these guys appear many miles away, you wonder if they should be trusted with a Stop/Go sign. But not this guy, this one was very with it. (Maybe he’d just been hauled back unexpectedly from far away!) Alert! and the world needs all the lerts it can get. Certainly needs more like this young man. I admit I was a bit concerned that, in smiling at me, he had taken on board a mouthful of dust.

Having been bestowed a beautiful smile I felt so good. Not only a master of the road today but a receiver of smiles, too. Convinced it was a wonderful world I drove very sedately through the road works, trying not to kick up too much dust. There was no such greeting at the other end of works, the young lady there was too busy raising and wiggling her sign to slow down an approaching motorist. Give her a smile I advised the driver as I passed him but I doubt her heard me, the window was up to start with.

I resolved to pass on that smile. If that young man can stand there in the sun, covered in dust and still smile at the passing world then so can I.

My first stop was at a hardware store (spray unit) and my first attempt at a smile was met with “You OK there, luv? Give us a hell if you want a hand with anything!” Doubt if my thank you and smile was even noticed. Then to the garden centre within the same store where the sales assistant beat me to the smile and even the lady I bumped into with my trolley turned and laughed first. Geez, what is it with people today? I have a bloody smile to give away and can’t beat anyone else to it. Even the girl at the check-out was first off the mark!

Ahh, but next came the supermarket and that could be more of a challenge. Didn’t start out well though. The first lady I noticed was wearing a striking black and white top and I’m rather into black and white at the moment. Already saying in my head “What a terrific top!” to her I smiled and was very promptly ignored! Now I know I had a smile to give away but even so, I don’t like to smile at blank spaces, even blank spaces in great tops, so I turned to find another face. I got in first on this one! The face smiled back, turned away, then whipped back again, the smile broadening. It was an old friend and not only did I get the smile but a warm hug as well. Bonus!

By the time I left the supermarket I was feeling the strain a bit, it can be darned hard work giving away smiles in that place. I think I did quite well but can’t claim total success.

But by then I was on my way to meet my friend, Chris and her neighbour, Liz and there’s never a shortage of smiles with those two.

Time to turn the car towards home, maybe I’d get one last smile from the Stop/Go guy. But, no, it must have only been a quick job, the grader and team had packed up and gone. Someone else had a treat waiting for them.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Reflections

My daughter, Justine, asked what I was reflecting on last weekend. Just life, I guess. My life in particular. Not so much what it's been in the past, although there was a bit of that, but what it will be in the future. The unknown is always more interesting! So there I was reflecting on the unknown and that's a sure way to not get very far.

Then, during the week, I found a lovely quote on someone's blog. Sorry, I can't remember where it was, but he said he had found it on another blog too. At least he had the manners to remember where he had got it, whereas I can only say thanks, unknown blogger.

“In spite of illness, in spite even of the arch-enemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.”
Edith Wharton

I've printed it out and put it on the fridge. To me that is a quote worth remembering! If I can carry those thoughts into the future, I think I can slow down the "disintergration".

When the idea came (or was sent?) to start this blog, I thought of it as a way to preserve my stories and poems. Something to leave for the grandkids, those I have now and those of the future. (Don't let me get off the track, just let me state I know there will be more grandies to come.) I have no desire to be "published", I know I wouldn't enjoy the marketing aspect, I've never been good at promoting my own cause. And to print them out and organise them into some sort of order would be boring in the extreme. But I love writing stories, recording the funny little things that kids say and do.

Grandad Osborne, my maternal grandfather, was a storyteller, he loved to give his funny version of everyday happenings and he loved a good laugh. I don't remember Dad as a story teller when I was a child, he was always too busy working and fathering us all, but as he aged he did love to have company for his 5 o'clock beer and to talk about days gone by. And my brothers and sisters - just get them going!

My grandchildren Michael and Georgia are also storytellers. Last Friday evening I accompanied 15 year old Michael down to the beach for a late swim. I offered to hold his shirt, cap and towel while he was swimming and he flipped his baseball-style cap on to my head, with the peak jutting sideways, the way the cool young dudes wear their caps. I straightened it but he said, no, I had to wear it the right way. (Thought by straightening the thing I had put it on the right way but we see things differently.) I said OK I'd wear it that way but only if no other people came along. Of course, a couple of ladies did come around the rocks at the end of the beach and the cap was whipped off. After his swim, as we strolled back along the beach, he said I should be a cool granny and then proceeded to describe Cool Grandad he had seen at the mall last week. Every detail had been noted, the make of the jeans, the shirt, the shoes and the hat. And then to top it off, he did an imitation of Cool Grandad's walk. That boy is a storyteller.

When we got to the track going up the cliff, making the climb easier for me than all the steps we had taken to get down to the beach from the clifftop, he strode out ahead. But it wasn't long before I had to call a halt to catch my breath. I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up with him so no point even trying. He came back and offered to push me from behind but there's no way I would agree to that. I'm not an old lady just yet, thank you! Michael, being Michael, came up with a solution. He stepped ahead of me and, holding one end of his beach towel, he flipped the other end back to me and said, "Hold on to that and I'll pull you!" Now there is a huge difference between being pushed and being pulled. Being pulled is fun! We laughed all the way to the top. Must be 20 years since I navigated that track so quickly! He'll probably be able to turn our cliff climb into a good story when I'm not around!

Georgia loves nothing more than a story, to hear one or to tell one. Over a year ago as we were out walking around the farm, she announced she was going to tell me a story. This was a first so I was very interested. She started out telling me what the rabbit said to the duck, then stopped, cast her eyes up to the sky, and said she was listening to her "magination" but couldn't hear what came next. Then, just like her grandmother, she got off the track and proceeded to talk about her "magination". I was pleasantly surprised to learn it is a tiny little thing, only about as big as a flea, she sends it into her head to find "stuff". Her imagination has improved a lot since then!

The only thing I do know about my future is that I will continue as a storyteller.