Palm Sunday

Sunday we were privileged to share companionship and a meal in the little town of Wangoom with a group of sri Lankan refugees who were having a holiday with local families.ImageImageLovely friendly people, beautiful children.

ImageImageTo round off the occasion the ‘One World’ Peace Choir sang inspiring and stirring songs.ImageWe felt we were indeed all one.

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Framlingham 150 Years

An anniversary is a journey back in time. 150 years is a long time and this links to the longer journey back to when this continent of Australia was inhabited only by its indigenous population.

Framlingham was originally a reserve for the Girai wurrung people, Gunditjmara from Warrnambool, and for reluctant Djargurd Wurrung. The Church of England first managed the settlement which was closed by a government board in 1867 in order for the people to be moved to Lake Condah. But to most of the aborigines this was or had become their country and they fought for and won the right to reestablish.  In 1971 through the selling off of the land the settlement had been reduced from 14sq km to 2.37 sq km and ownership was handed over to an aboriginal trust.

In 1987 the new Aboriginal Land Act gave 4.6sq km of the Framlingham forest to the Trust. Image

Last week on 12th April 2014 the 150 year anniversary was celebrated.  Image

People of several nationalities celebrated with the aborigines who live at Framlingham.IMGP0019

There were talks and workshops in the several marquees erected for the occasion and in the attractive Community Health Centre that graces the settlement nowadays. Copy of IMGP0035

We enjoyed a talk on Bush Tucker delivered by Brett Clarke with photos by

Kevin Sparrow.IMGP0033IMGP0032

Great music galore of course in the big marquee. IMGP0029

Archie Roach was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint.IMGP0041

Emily’s windcheater displayed a popular suggestion.IMGP0026

We enjoyed communicating with a relative of Archie.IMGP0030

An interesting day drew to a mellow close. I was only sorry we had missed out on a cultural tour via bus. Next time!IMGP0043

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Magic from Japan

On a hot autumn day we sat in the shade by Lake Pertobe. Was it an apparition? A young Japanese woman tripped along the shore of the lake, placed a bright yellow cloth on the grass and sat down with her long musical instrument against her knee. Image

ImageBeautiful music from the shamisen drifted over to us. We even heard the unmistakeable strains of ‘Waltzing Matilda’.

We expressed our pleasure at the performance to the woman’s Australian born Japanese partner in the car beside us . He explained how she was warming up before heading out to little Woodford Primary School to play music and perform with her Japanese puppets. Lucky children!Image

I said how I felt we were celebrating the cessation of Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean. We commented how most Japanese too are delighted by this. The young man  knew from living in Tokyo that the Japanese do not on the whole eat whale meat nor approve of whaling. It was more for big business interests and perhaps an adherence to an old custom. When we were lucky enough to be in Japan for my son’s wedding just over a year ago my nephew who studies, teaches and lives in Japan shared similar information with us.

So let us celebrate a safe ocean for the whales!Minke whale

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Travels and Trials with Sheepdogs

Port Fairy was recently the venue of the Commonwealth Sheepdog Trials. People travelled long distances from all States of Australia to this little seaside town in sw Victoria to enter their dogs in working dogs’ trials. They obviously find the little seaside town in sw Victoria a pleasant venue for their very serious business. And pleasant indeed it is with mild climate, shady trees around the oval, pleasant area for their caravans IMGP1419and for the dogs waiting their turns by the river,IMGP1438

and the sea nearby for rest and relaxation.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A good spot also to find the thousand or more sheep to participate in the trials on a rotational basis. IMGP1439

Travelling on the roads with several dogs and a caravan in tow requires special organization.

This would be a typical set up. IMGP1436

Not just working dogs,  people sometimes bring pups and pet dogs as well. IMGP1423

Watching a dog drive three sheep around, over and through the different barriers before reaching the pen is very absorbing.  sheepdog trialThe grace and skill of the dogs is extraordinary. Dog herding sheepMost are the especially successful border collies and each has its own personality, some quite roguish. The state champion of WA, Grassvalley Moss, who had flown here, allowed himself to be momentarily distracted by a bitch and was thrown right off course.

The trainers, dog owners and dress smartly, women scarcely distinguishable from the men. IMGP1440 The busy sheep minders wear fluorescent jackets. fl jacketIt takes four or five of them flapping their arms to get the three sheep back into the enclosure,  a kelpie 2 job performed effortlessly by one kelpie assigned to the task.

The dog trials are the serious part of the programme it seems. In the lunch break there is more entertainment. Here ducks have  been herded by one clever dog. In other years the ducks were dressed in little bonnets and jackets. IMGP1409 And one day the trainer dressed in comical costume as her dog performed tricks.IMGP1421

Owners and trainers of course need to be fed and visitors to the trials, such as ourselves, are more than happy to fit eating delicious food into the gentle routine of watching the trials. IMGP1442

Local volunteers prepare the meals. The Moyne Gazette had a photo of these smiling volunteers from Koroit, as well as a photo of Bring ’em Darcy from Queensland  dressed up to kill.IMGP1435

All proceeds from the meals and the gate takings go to Moyne Health Services, this year specifically supporting Peter’s Project, a local project to support cancer sufferers and their families.

Nothing sophisticated about the meals or the entertainment in general but there is an air of rural authenticity quite different from the air of sophistication this little town sometimes likes to pretend to. And it certainly seems that the Commonwealth Sheepdog trials give far more than they take. I look forward to more quiet pleasure from them after the hectic holiday season of 2015.

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Yarra Bend

Ancient river rising cool and clear in the mountains Virginia's Farewell 025

reaches Melbourne sluggish and brown

as it would be even without the big city pollution.

My mother lived and played near here as a small child,

swinging over the deep waters on a rope although she never learned to swim.

I too played near the river as a child; although I could swim in the sea it was forbidden in the river.

My uncle tended the Yarra Bend golf course so lots of family visits there.

And all the while the river flowed over its bed of clay between its muddy banks,

polluted water from drains would have oozed into the once pure depths.

Rubbish was thrown into the river, sank to the bottom.

Secrets, secrets!

Old trees lined the river, whispered.

Today still many old trees stand sentinel purifying the air. Virginia's Farewell 029

Would it have looked so different in the early days of white settlement, or long before that?

And now in the second decade of the 21st Century family and friends are present here at a picnic to farewell the special woman, Virginia, who is going back to the tropical lifestyle she favours. My grandchildren are the children here today. Their mother and father and his sisters, and nineteen year old Savanna have not forgotten how to play like children though.

I was inspired by Django to swing on the huge branch of an old oak tree. My feet on the earth grounded me, my arms high in the branches were wings to freedom.

    Farewell  Virginia

ImageImage

Great food and conversation to share with family and friends Image

Playing and relaxing on the grass——ImageImage

Image

I too played in Nature.   Image

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The Lake School of Celtic, Music, Song and Dance

On New Years Day 2014  people started gathering in Koroit for the Lake School of Celtic Music, Song and Dance. This year there was even an Irish flavour to the weather that was cool and windy and sometimes wet. People with musical instruments on their backs strode around the town andImage Felix Meagher, the Director of the Festival could often be seen with phone to ear although in this photo he is carrying supplies from the supermarket.ImageIt was good for Frank to be able to go out the front and bump into Mary from a town near where he lived in IrelandLake School 2014 031

As residents in the town we were happy to provide accommodation for two of the participants, Eamon the Irish language tutor Imageand Joan who runs the raffle with first prize two tickets to

the Port Fairy Folk Festival, and also gives a spoons workshop.Lake School 2014 046

Luckily those two had plenty of warm clothes as I hope the many people camping in the caravan park did.Lake School 2014 018

I decided to do the advanced bodhran classes with Leamon Chambers in the primary school wondering if I’d cope with these; but I needn’t have worried. Lake School 2014 008 In the late afternoons I played my bodhran in the African music group with Andy Rigby in the lovely Scout hall, once a beautiful old church. Amazing sounds echoed in this space.Lake School 2014 001 I decided not to try and fit in any other classes other that a private lesson in spoons at the kitchen table with Joan. Lake School 2014 045 I made a short instructional video on my smart phone of this.

There was a choice of entertainment in the evenings.  The really dedicated could make music at late night sessions at Senior Cits almost to dawn I believe. We went to the Commercial to hear and play music on two nights, would have liked to go out to Kirkstall Pub where they erected a marquee for the overflow of people. Lake School 2014 026

Here Cristy Cooney of the Cobbers sings at the Commercial and Cath Conolly’s harp music was exquisite.Lake School 2014 029 .

The Healing House up the road was the gallery for Mem Taberner’s artworks of Tower Hill, one of which was the cover picture of the program. Lake School of Irish Music and Dance 001The exhibition was opened by the lovely Lake School chaplain, David O’Brien.

Lake School 2014 014

This was also the venue for the pleasant Blues Night hosted by our old friend from Belgrave, Lou Hesterman, when many favourite songs were played and sometimes sung. Lake School 2014 007In the late mornings rollicking pub songs, taught by Cristy Cooney, could be heard from the same venue.

The historic Mickey Bourke’s Hotel was the venue for some sessions on the veranda and for the Spud Poets’ Night hosted by the well known bush poet from Ararat, Colin Driscoll. Lake School 2014 027Spud Poets was inspired by the poem of well known local, Mary Fiorini, ‘The Humble Spud’,  that we have heard Mary recite countless times. Here is Mary in the pub that she was born in. Mary's 88th Birthday Party 052The occasion grew to a competition with a prize of $1,000 that Frank won a few years ago with his poem about an Irish gypsy wake,’Old Casey’.  I also was inspired to enter writing a song to Mary McKillop before she was canonized and one about my famous great great great uncle, Daniel O’Connell. No prize nowadays so I guess there is not quite the same pressure to write a poem to recite, something I don’t much enjoy nowadays. Frank is not fond of performance either although he at least has written hundreds of poems, so we haven’t taken part these last two years for one reason or another, but I believe it was a wonderful night.

St Brigid’s Crossley is a popular out of town venue. It is the old Catholic Church that the people struggled to save as a community centre. The story of this wonderful achievement is told in Regina Lane’s book that was launched at the Lake School. The Lake School Saving St Brigid's Singers provided accompaniment. A ceilidhe complete with Irish dance taught by Marie Brouder and that looked like this, was held.

Irish Social danceDancers were dressed more grandly though as it was an op shop ball. Marie is the Legend of the Lake this year. maree Brouder

The lovely old theatre in the middle of Koroit was of course a popular venue. On late Saturday afternoon Joan’s spoons workshop was in the foyer. In the evening there was a performance people paid a little to attend, a concert by the talented group from Melbourne, ‘Saiorse’. Lake School 2014 016We certainly enjoyed this night.

The hall was transformed for the Grand Ceildhe on Monday night when audience arrived with refreshments to enjoy at the decorated tables and most of the class participants performed with their groups. Lake School 2014 043The celebrations were opened with a Toast to the Celts in Irish by our clever guest Eamon.

And The final day was rather more laid back after the Big Tune and school photo shoot outside the Historical Society. Back to the hall for the young Stars of the Lake Lake School 2014 047

And then the inspiring Songwriters’ Concert.

I loved Jim Lawrence’s song about a blackbird.Lake School 2014 055Lake School 2014 052

Here are several of the tired but happy participants outside the Historical Society cottage on the final day of the 2014 Lake School–

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The final get together was in he evening with a slow session hosted by Mark and Lisa McDonnell. My photo was taken that night and sure enough appeared in The Moyne Gazette a couple of weeks later, a reminder of yet another wonderful Lake School.Lake School of Irish Music and Dance

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Travels in Japan

The biggest journey I have been on was that to and from Japan for my son’s wedding just over twelve months ago. It has taken me a long time to process and blogging about it in the last days of the year whose beginning saw us just back home seems appropriate. The journey started here with passports applied for and luggage packed. ImageAnd lots of the short journeys we made in the car were accompanied by the CDs we attempted to learn some Japanese from. Finally, early December 2012, it was on to the train, then plane to the Gold Coast for a couple of days with my sister. And finally, one morning four of us were in the International airport where we briefly crossed paths with my son and his fiancee racing to their plane they were late for. In fact we had started with time to spare but somehow got into the wrong departures lounge and almost missed our plane! But finally we were on to the plane that was to take us to Japan. In the evening we negotiated the Narita airport and found ourselves on the train from there to Tokyo after dozens of escalators, my bugbear. Next day via lots of steps down to subway and train we walked through an ancient forest of Tokyo,  to an old Shinto shrine, Imageour lovely, fluent Japanese speaking guide my brother’s son, And all this on 12/12/12 a significant date in many people’s minds! We very much enjoyed a family meal in a traditional restaurant where I had the choice of sitting with legs crossed on a bench. Image Another family meal in Tokyo, that we cooked ourselves in the restaurant! Image Next day we wandered around the Ginza without Greg’s expert help. Despite the reputation of it being an expensive area we were able to have a delicious but cheap meal again cooked by ourselves. The ingredients came around in a train.Image The liquid we cooked our meals in made a delicious broth. Image  Afterwards I found some earrings to wear at the wedding because I had somehow misplaced the ones I had intended to wear. I found a reasonably priced pair but agonized later that I might have paid the yen equivalent of $330 instead of $33 because Greg said ‘Nothing is cheap in the Ginza!’ Luckily my fears were groundless!

Our hotel in the Ginza, the Mercure was elegant and very compact.  I loved the bidet that was to be a feature of all the hotels we stayed in. Alas the bath was quite narrow and this led to a near disaster I’ll say no more about!

We went to the top of this vertigo provoking tower but for me no worse than the vertigo provoked by next to nothing on the ground. Image Amazing to see Tokyo in its vastness spread out below! Image It seems in Japan public gardens have to have a purpose. Here they are around the plaza of an imperial palace with statue of a samurai overseeing all. Image As we were leaving Tokyo these darling children moved up to share their seat on the station then waved goodbye.Image Now we used our Japanese Rail Passes (for visitors) again to go south to Mt Fuji. Negotiating the train system was challenging for me but it turned out it was challenging for all.    Image

 The bullet train was fast when it tore past us on the station Imagebut riding in it did not feel so fast.Scenery certainly flew past at a rapid rate! Image

Riding in Thomas the Tank Engine down to Mt Fuji was a gentle and amusing contrast. ImageImage How beautiful and how sacred is Mt Fuji that we saw from many angles including that through the window of our hotel bedroom. Image Here I am meditating gazing at the mountain, such a privilege! Image My sister and her grand daughter loved the bath house that they went downstairs to dressed in kimonos from their bed room. They did this more than once, in fact Bella went down several times. japanese-bath-panI would so have loved to join them but couldn’t quite bring myself to although I went down for a peep. Once I would have done it! At least our private bath was wide and comfortable as were the baths in the  hotels we stayed in subsequently. It was luxury to bathe and then sit in the bedroom with its wonderful view. We had a delicious meal in the restaurant where Bella enjoyed a special children’s meal. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Lots of temples in lovely Kyoto, constant stream of visitors. One longs for a quiet seat to sit and meditate. ImageImage In the front of another temple I  shook a metal cylinder and drew out a small sheet telling my future. A kind young Japanese woman gave me the positive interpretation. Then she helpedImage me fasten the sheet to a wire to help enhance the good luck. I love doing things the Japanese way! These were the first of hundreds of steps to reach the temple. Image I didn’t think I’d make it but I plodded on and before I knew it I was up the top and walking on a beautiful dance floor. Thanks to my sister’s generosity we were staying at a series of luxury hotels, At the Sheraton Miyako I acted as if to the manner born! Image View of Japanese garden from window  Image In Kyoto I felt very strange and decided that this time I should see a doctor. I would have had to wait several hours to see an English speaking one unless I went to the hospital. The hospital very basic in layout with the usual efficiency of staff. Although my blood pressure was very high the doctor could find nothing else wrong. Frank went off to find a cafeteria and bring back some food. This apparently not allowed and he got himself arrested. This was cleared up and the head surgeon courteously escorted us to another of the ubiquitous Lawsons Family Mart where we bought food and drink that was heated for us. We arrived back at the hotel to discover my sister had organised another night’s accommodation as it was getting too late to travel on. Hardly a penance but an unfortunate expense some of which would be recovered by insurance. It turned out Frank had been suffering the same weird symptoms so we obviously had a virus! Snow on the mountains from the hotel window next morning  Image

——and I zoomed in on this temple where Mikao Usui was given the gift of Reiki 

ImageImage

A shorter train journey took us to Osaka, the hotel near a shopping complex of several floors all connected by escalators of course.  ImageLots of cheap eating places to choose from, we sampled a few. And plenty of healthy cheap take away food and coffee, but nowhere to eat this other than back at the hotel. In fact the only seating area I spotted was about four chairs in a corner outside one of the shops. Not for the first time I thought of Gateway Plaza in Warrnambool with Kmart and Coles and smaller shops along a plaza with nests of armchairs every few metres. My vertigo is challenged enough there and I welcome those chairs. So imagine me exploring the floors of shops as I did! My big buy was some cheap Puma sneakers ImageI had the excuse to purchase because of my boots  lost  in Tokyo. Apart from that I bought a few small gifts, and a diary to remind me of Japan through 2013, in a small arcade across the road from the big complex.

21st December we took the train to Takamatsu and the family already there happened to be at the station when we arrived. Such excitement of course. On 22nd December was the reason for our trip, the wedding. In excitement and maybe nervousness we dressed for the occasion. Image Lovely bride and my son excelled himself. ImageImage OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I have to say I find it a struggle to survive an occasion such as this, especially one where I am somewhat a centre of attention. I had dreaded it, was nervous but I think I did well. I was told afterwards I had looked relaxed anyway. Image Many weddings here in Australia are not in a church, but in a garden or at the beach with a celebrant and a personal ceremony. A non traditional wedding in Japan is not in a temple with Buddhist or Shinto celebrant, but in a chapel with Christian theme and hymns and celebrant dressed in priestly robes. Paul and Kana’s wedding was like this whereas nephew Greg, one of these celebrants, was to be married in a traditional Buddhist/Shinto ceremony in August. Good that people have choices! The reception was elegant, food delicious. Image During the ceremony and the reception Kana’s cousin, reputedly the best pianist in Asia, played exquisitely. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Not everyone will agree with my opinion that I somehow photographed an angel in the midst of all the activity but here is the photo anyway!Image Guests all introduced themselves in the language that wasn’t theirs. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I  made my first presentation in Japanese. I laughingly introduced myself as ‘Haha’ meaning ‘Mother’. There was an amusing bingo game based on guests’ names. Paul finally got to act the clown in the guise of Santa Claus, earning himself a commission to play the old gentleman on another occasion. Image As usually happens the cake, and a lovely one it was, was cut and served to guests.Image And thus it was time for bride and groom and all parents to bid guests Sayonara at the end of this lovely occasion, my one small duty albeit a challenging one. Much thanks is due to Kana’s parents for the lovely wedding they gave Kana and Paul. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA In the anticlimax after the wedding we walked along a covered arcade of many shops,Image looking for the artisan who makes dolls from old kimonos. No success but it was good to just walk. I was used to the idea there would be nowhere to sit. Next morning I was really feeling the effects of the effort I had made at the wedding and I was starting to feel nervous about the trip back to Australia. I couldn’t even make it down to breakfast with the family who came to the hotel for the occasion even though that precious family time is something I value. But there is not a lot of it nowadays so I am out of practice. It was good to set off then for the wonderful old Ritsurin Gardens ImageImagebut again I felt I couldn’t keep up with family. As usual there wasn’t much seating but there was an old bench under a tree where I could sit  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcross legged , meditate and observe the passers by. I did this while in the cold wind until a courteous gentleman took me into a restroom with a similar bench, and toilets nearby. He was obviously happy to try out his English so we chatted away about Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road until my name was announced over the loudspeaker. Family had thought I was lost although I explained that they were the ones who got lost.  And then it was time for us to go our separate ways. Image Image

Back to the hotel we went, the least grand of those we had stayed at, but comfortable nonetheless, and with its small Christmas tree in the foyer.ImageDownstairs with our bags we waited for the taxi to take us to the station where we would catch the Express bus to Kansai Airport. Incidentally Christmas time was acknowledged in Japan every bit as brightly as it is here. Image

The ride to the airport was easy and interesting with views of mountains and sea. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was sorry for it to finish. There were crowds of people at the airport OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and lots of time standing in queues. Having finally presented my passport I sat down to wait before getting on our flight. I casually opened my passport and to my amazement the face of my younger, slimmer darker sister looked back at me. I got my sister to look at her passport with equal amazement. I thought of the extreme fussiness to get our passport photos exactly right but here we were in Japan going through on the wrong passports! At last we were on the plane. I slept for two or three hours early in the flight but later I was restless although Frank was able to make use of the empty seat beside him. Back on the Gold Coast in the early morning we could already feel the heat. Next day was Christmas Day and it was good if unusual to spend this with the Gold Coast branch of family. Temperatures were milder than I expected but humidity still trying.  ImageImage Anthea was coughing a little and soon Peter was too but it didn’t keep them for their daily swim. A couple of days later flu hit me very suddenly and I succumbed heavily as I do. The thought of the flight back to Melbourne and even the train ride worried me and it seemed easier to stay on, Anthea not objecting to this, and a doctor I saw authorising it, but Frank worried and I knew I had to make the trip sooner or later. So we left on time and it all went smoothly. Sitting opposite us on the train was a pretty teenager Photo-0143who looked just how Bella, who had assertively accompanied us on our journey, will look in a few year’s time. A couple of days after we reached home the flu hit Frank hard so I think it was lucky for Anthea we were home in Koroit. I was almost better I thought but a relapse didn’t surprise me Joan from Nimbin was staying with us during the Lake School of Celtic music and Dance, ( that I felt too unwell to attend), and seemed to think will power and positive thinking would keep her safe. But not so. She became quite ill and ended up staying on an extra week. I started to feel better, but I came down with the symptoms again. Here in Koroit summer is kind bringing the occasional very hot day but mostly cool to warm weather with the usual sea breezes. Good weather in which to get well and to be pensive as memories were processed. Sayonara. .

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