Why I don’t do Anzac Day

Musings of an older-born

Yesterday I was asked whether I observe Anzac Day. I don’t.

I never have.

In my childhood, it was the day when my father came home drunker than usual. In my teens I marched against Vietnam and in my twenties I visited Gallipoli (long before it was upgraded to its current status as a shrine). I was on a bus tour from Kathmandu to London; it was part of the itinerary. It didn’t mean much.

Then, like most of my generation, I just ignored it.

But when Australia became involved in modern wars – Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria – politicians decided that reviving Anzac Day was a great PR opportunity. Suddenly, young boys who’d joined the army for a chance of adventure when jobs were hard to find became self-sacrificing heroes. But the Indigenous men who fought alongside them continued to be overlooked, just as they had been when…

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Surprised by meringues

Musings of an older-born

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Despite the scores of cookbooks, magazines and websites devoted to recipes, when it comes down to it, the food we eat at Christmas is all pretty much the same. Turkey, ham, seafood; salads or baked vegetables. Followed by pudding, trifle and/or pavlova. Maybe a barbecue or a picnic. We tweak the recipes or stick to the tried and true; but viewed pragmatically there isn’t a great deal of variety from home to home and from year to year. Sharing food at Christmas is far less about the food served than the memories and ritual attached to it. Until relatively recently Australians continued to recall “home” – the land their forebears had come from – by serving heavy, hot meals totally inappropriate for the Antipodean summer, even if they had never travelled outside Australia.

When we were invited to Boxing Day lunch at a neighbour’s home, we didn’t expect anything different. We…

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Satisfying my inner mermaid

Musings of an older-born

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They tell me I could swim before I could walk. Well, that’s how I remember it. No doubt it’s an exaggeration, but there are photos of me, a chubby 1950s baby, sitting up and photos of me swimming in my father’s arms, but no photos of me walking.

We grew up near the beach, and when most of my classmates were at Sunday school, we were swimming. While Mum dealt with my “difficult” younger brother, Dad would take the neighbourhood kids to the beach. Later, thanks to a win on a horse, they bought a weekender at Whale Beach, in those days right on the fringe of suburbia. Weekends and school holidays were spent in the water, on the sand, or roaming the rocks and sandhills.

So although my late January birthday makes me an Aquarian, I think it is my childhood rather than the power of the zodiac that…

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Fasting for Dracula

Musings of an older-born

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Disclaimer: I wrote this before the recent events in Beirut and Paris. I am aware that this is insignificant in comparison.

I’m an early to bed,  early to rise person. Although these days rising usually means getting up, feeding the cat, making coffee and toast and taking them back to bed. And with sunrise at roughly 5.45 a.m. and first light some twenty minutes earlier, coffee can be any time after that. So when the doctor said it was time to do fasting blood tests my heart sank. Because I know from experience that the two hours between six and eight can seem endless when I am denied my toast and coffee. Usually when fasting blood tests are recommended, I procrastinate and procrastinate until the form is forgotten.

But a neighbour had a stroke last week, giving our close community a scare, so I have decided that it is time to…

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Hating Halloween – (not)

Musings of an older-born

Australians of a certain age delight in hating Halloween. They usually complain that it’s another example of encroaching Americanisation (even though it’s not) but I suspect that deep down it’s because it wasn’t part of their childhood. Towards the end of October, as pumpkins and cobwebs appear in shop windows and on fences, trees and verandahs, they begin their tut-tutting on talk-back radio and social media.

Far from being yet another greedy American custom, Halloween has its origins in the festival of Samhain, the beginning of the Celtic year. According to Celtic tradition, this is the time when the dead walk among the living; a time of fairies, ghosts, demons and witches.  (http://www.druidry.org/druid-way/teaching-and-practice/druid-festivals/samhain/deeper-samhain)

Just like Christmas and Easter, the Celtic festival was appropriated by the Christian Church, with November 1st becoming All Saints’ Day, and October 31st All Hallows Eve. In the United Kingdom the tradition of going house to house…

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What’s in a name?

Musings of an older-born

S, Old English fancy text

Now that I’m sixty-something, I’ve come to accept my name. But it has not been without angst over the decades. I’m told that my parents argued for three days over what to call me. Having finally settled on the unusual (for the early fifties) name of Sally, they decided that there was no need to choose a middle name. So I was Sally-no-middle-name-Kennedy.

This may have something to do with their own unusual middle names. Dad was Charles Maitland – the Maitland after the surname of a colleague of his father. At some stage, he discarded the Charles and was know to everyone by the homophone of that great Australian leveller – “mate”. Or in his case “Mait”. Many people were unaware of the spelling, so he became a sort of nameless entity even though his personality was larger than life.

Mum, on the other hand, always told us  that she…

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Desperate and Dateless

Musings of an older-born

I’ve been happily married for three and a half decades. So it’s a long time since I sat by the phone waiting for that special call. But trying to get community help for my adult daughter with a chronic illness has taken me back to that world faster than any Tardis.

I know that budgets are tight, it’s the end of the financial year, and the industry is under reform. But if I – a university graduate who has worked in the system, with English as a first language – am finding it impossible to negotiate, what hope is there for those who are less proficient in English and the ways of Government Departments?

I made the first approach about 2 months ago. A very helpful young woman in an umbrella organisation – let’s call it service A – gave me some ideas, and promised a follow up email. Which…

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ME/CFS: an invisible illness

This is our less amazing adventure.

Musings of an older-born

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I don’t have a vast number of Facebook friends. Yet three of them     have  participated in different fundraisers for cancer research/support in the  past eight days.

I know lots of people who have had cancer – my husband, my sister in-law, a cousin, work colleagues, friends and friends of friends. Most of them are still alive and, apart from check-ups, living a normal life.

My daughter has had ME/CFS for fifteen years. She is among the 25% of those with ME/CFS who are “severely affected.” For her this means pain, social isolation and dependence on us for support while her brother, her friends and peers are getting on with life. She can get out occasionally and she doesn’t require tube-feeding, so she remains better off than some. But her need to move home for support has scuttled our retirement plans.

If you get a diagnosis of cancer there are…

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Scuba diving at sixty-something – or you can’t talk underwater. 

Musings of an older-born

I’m a water baby. If you believe in astrology, it’s because I’m an Aquarian. But I think it’s because I grew up around beaches. Anecdotally, I was swimming before I was walking. A chubby bottle-fed child of the fifties, I was content to sit and observe the world go by. In some ways, nothing has changed. But my father  was a swimmer  and a surfer, and an early photo shows me at the Spit Baths, grinning happily, held by my Dad and supported by a blow-up whale with a ring in it. The photo is black and white, but I can clearly remember the pink of the whale.

Sundays were spent at the baths or Freshwater beach, and although I never swam competitively, I loved the allure of the water; the feeling of support and the washing away of all the clumsiness of land-based activities.  I even caused my mother…

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Mangoes and summer

My father used to say said that the only way to eat a mango was in the bath. But manoeuvring his 183 cm, 140 kg frame in and out of the bath in a narrow bathroom was difficult, if not impossible, let alone with a mango in one hand. So he had to find another method.  I remember him leaning over the balcony, chest bare with a towel wrapped firmly around his waist, mango juice dripping down his arms and on to the grass below, grinning as he relished  mouthful after mouthful.

Mangoes were a treat in  Sydney in the the fifties. Their season was short, and like cherries but rarer, they were closely associated with Christmas and holidays. As far as I recall, there was only one species – Kensington Pride, which remains my favourite, its rich, sweet,  cloying  flavour almost too good to be natural. You feel almost guilty for enjoying it.

Some sixty years later, the season is longer, there are more species to choose from, and we have learned to peel the fruit and slice the cheeks  to make eating easier. Though I must confess that after neatly slicing the fruit, for myself or to share, I can’t resist  chewing the last of the fruit off the pip, knowing that it will end in mango fibres stuck fast between my teeth.

As we became more sophisticated, and canned mangoes became available, we discovered new things to do with mangoes.  In the sixties we made mango mousse, in the seventies it was mango smoothies and in the seventies mango mayonnaise was the height of culinary style. Today we are blasé about mangoes, using them carelessly in salads and desserts, in Thai cooking, and, I learned today, even in fruit cakes and Christmas puddings. And bottled orange and mango juice was readily available before juice bars sprang up everywhere. But tasting the first mango of summer remains an experience to be anticipated and treasured every year.

You have to be careful not to buy them too early. Growers are keen to get them into the markets before they have that rich, ripe taste. So I wait until the price comes down a bit, using that as indicator of readiness. after watching for a couple of weeks, I finally bought my first two mangoes this summer. They both had a tinge of green, one more so than the other so they would ripen sequentially.  I have been watching them ripen slowly day by day, sniffing them carefully and pressing them ever so gently to assess their readiness. All part of the ritual of the first mango of summer.

And today was THE day. The first mango was ready. No bath or balcony needed, I peeled and sliced and added it to my muesli, the aroma released as the knife pierced the flesh evoking memories of childhood. (And yes, I did chew the pip.) as I tasted the fruit and felt the juice I my mouth, memories came flooding back. Memories of summer holidays, of Christmas days, of heat and sunburn and sand between the toes. Memories of buying one mango a summer when that was all I could afford. Memories of fruit platters at work Christmas parties where only the first lucky few manged to grab a piece of mango. And memories of family.

There’ll be another mango tomorrow, and on many days between now and the end of summer. But none will taste as good as this morning’s first mango of summer.