Sunday, April 26, 2015

Dawn service

G'day all!

For many years now, I've been saying I will get up early and go to a dawn service on Anzac Day.

Well I finally did.

I'm only over 13,000 km from home (and that distance makes me feel a bit heartsick to be honest) and there was no eternal flame, no lighthorsemen or soldiers standing guard, but there was a bunch of Aussies and Kiwis (and their American families) and I think maybe a few Turks as well, and we stood in the pre-dawn light, listened to the Last Post, laid wreaths and flowers, listened to a short speech or two, a song sung on such occasions by Maoris (Maori men fought alongside their European brothers), and promised to remember the fallen and the returned.

It is one hundred years on 25th April this year since the storming of what came to be known as Anzac Cove along with other beach fronts on the Gallipoli (Gelibolu) Peninsula in what is now called Turkey.  Australian, New Zealand, English, French, Indians and even some Newfoundland troops attacked the Ottoman Empire with the idea of pushing through to Constantinople (now Istanbul) and controlling the passage of ships through to the Black Sea, allowing Russia sea access.  It was early in WWI and men from the colonies flocked to defend their motherland and her allies.

Like many Australians (and Kiwis), I had a relative at Gallipoli.  My Pop didn't storm the beaches and cliffs that day.  He enlisted later, on 22nd of June 1915 and sailed from Melbourne on the HMAT Makarini.  This man, who is not my Pop, enlisted on the same day - even the writing on the enlistment is the same - and sailed on the same transport ship, and I'm pretty sure Pop would've known him and probably did pretty much the same things as him.  I know Pop was at Mudros and something I've read or heard said his Gallipoli campaign was not long.

At the going down of the sun

But he was an ANZAC.

And he fought at the Somme and nearly died there.

And he came home, like so many others, a man broken certainly in body.  His lungs were scarred from being gassed, his face was broken from the almost lethal wound he took.  He was missing a kidney I think too.  He didn't talk about the war but often disappeared into his shed.

And in the morning

Pop died when I was nine.  I have few memories of him apart from him being tall and scary, with a shock of white curls on his head, a husky voice (either from being gassed or the wound that nearly killed him) and a face that didn't work properly.  I remember him bestowing sloppy, bristly kisses.  I remember his bright blue eyes pleading with me when he was in hospital, trapped in a body that had had a severe stroke, a stroke that robbed him of his voice and movement on one side and not long afterwards, his life.

It's not much to remember your grandfather by, but it is what I've got.  It might also explain my interest in working out where he went during the war and when he was there.

40% of the fit and able male Australian population aged 18 to 44 enlisted for duty in WWI.  40%.  60% of them became casualties - either dead or wounded.  Our Kiwi brothers suffered hardly any better - they had a 59% casualty rating.  If Australia made that same commitment to a war now as we did a hundred years ago, three hundred thousand men and women would die on the battlefield, and some three quarters of a million men and women would return wounded.  300,000 would die within several years of the war.   It is shocking to think about the impact this must have had on the population left behind, the fathers and brothers and sons lost to the nation.   (Link here.)

It's not appropriate to say "Happy Anzac Day."  There is nothing happy about Anzac Day, not the reason for the fighting, not the huge loss of life - not just Australians and New Zealanders and English and French and Indians and a handful of what now would be Canadians.  87,000 Turks lost their lives defending their shores.  Not the fact that we still send men and women into danger and bring them back so often broken in spirit and body.  Anzac Day is a commemoration not a celebration of war, of the horrors, of the damage.  But it is a day of pride too, pride in the accomplishments of our then two newly birthed nations, of the sacrifices made by so many in so often overwhelming odds.  It is a day that makes me sad to the point of tears, and I feel compelled to read as many stories about it as I can.

It is appropriate to say, "Lest we forget."

We will remember them.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Spring has sprung

G'day all!

I am a very bad blogger, but you know that already...

This early Spring has been wonderful.  Some things that have happened have been less wonderful - losing Leonard Nimoy and then Sir Terry and then Malcolm Fraser (ex-Prime Minister of Oz and someone who had stood up for his humanitarian principles for the last 40-odd years) and the Germanwings disaster...

Mm, gluten and dairy-free "pizza".  Why yes, there is
only half of it left.  The rest was in my belly, and
that second half soon joined the first...

Green trees!  A miracle!

But the flowers and the weather have provided nice little pep-me-ups along the way, even if we got to equinox and the weather got worse not better!  Still we need a bit of rain and a bit of gloom to remind us how glorious it is here.

I've been making a bit.  I've been working.  I've been slacking in the garden, then slaving in the garden.  It is starting to come together.

These showed up a day after I said that I still
had the dogwoods to look forward to...

Two weekends ago we went to the local African Violet society show and sale.  The sale was better than the show but never mind!  I'm just used to the insanity of the "Early Morn" African Violet group in my home city.  Their plants are just amazing - people who grow for show are a dedicated breed!  But we came home with some lovely little plants and lots of Streptocarpus varieties.  We now have even more plants in the house - the only room without a plant at the moment is the bathroom - I might move a couple of orchids back in there...  Even the laundry has plants in it!

These are in my yard!

Last weekend we went to the Spring grafting festival organised by the local tree fruit society.  We learned how to do a simple splice graft, where you cut the rootstock and the scion on an angle and mate them up, trying to keep as much cambium (the juicy vascular part under the bark) in contact as possible.  Then you wrap the graft up with tape, tightly, and wait to see if the graft takes.  We did a bunch of semi-dwarf apple trees with some interesting varieties of apple (okay, ones that I like cos DH was not expressing an opinion plus some I thought sounded good like an unnamed variety from a tree on Vashon Island).  We came home with six little apple trees and two quinces, total cost something like $16.  I have no idea how long it will take for us to see if the plants have taken or if they will even take but I keep dancing out to the front yard to check them.  (I have plans for them to become something like a Belgian Fence.)

Not in our yard but still pretty!

I have to admit I've been busy avoiding things too.  I'm not going to go into them on the blog, but I have to say it was more of an unpleasant surprise than I would like and now I have another set of regular tests that I have to undertake.  Yay me, I have to have breast cancer screening (that's happening at the end of the week), bowel cancer screening (every five years), melanoma screening (every year) and pancreatic cancer screening (every year, some time in earlyish May).  Plus I have to watch for "bowel habit changes" and stomach pains, and with me that happens every time the wind changes.  Oh joy oh bliss.

Yoshino cherry trees in bloom.

Love this street when the cherries are in bloom

It is a pity that my body looks reasonably good but is actually pretty screwed up genetically.  I keep thanking pitchforks and pointy ears that I never had kids because passing all this crud onto them would be horrible.  But for the nonce I am reasonably healthy and long may I stay that way (or better!).

Different Japanese ornamental cherries

And back to the Yoshino cherries.  Ahh....

It is interesting to see the things that trip me up.  Health issues are an obvious one.  People often say that I seem to have a very good attitude regarding cancer.

If a good attitude means ignoring it as much as possible, well yes, yes I do.  Not much I can do apart from try to look after myself and get regular screening.  It is the only way I can function.  If I start looking at Dr Google then I melt down into a quivering mess.  So I blithely ignore the internet on such subjects and keep on cruising on my own special plane.

Piper's Creek

Today DH got cranky with me because I "was not walking fast enough."  We were strolling through a fairly wild park and I keep stopping to take photos because the leaves are bursting out and it is becoming even greener (moss keeps things green here in winter even when the deciduous trees have lost their leaves), plus I cannot walk fast even now due to this weird voice/throat thing.  Turns out that "not fast enough" is one of my buttons and DH mashed it good and proper.  I offered him the car keys so that he could hurry back whilst I moseyed, but he refused them at first. then finally took them and ran off.

Mossy mosses

"Not fast enough", "not quick enough", "not big enough" tie into my role as baby sister.  I was never enough, always holding my family back because there's no way someone with a five year gap to the next sibling and a much bigger gap to their eldest siblings is ever going to keep up unless they are carried or otherwise transported.  Of course DH was the eldest and never had to deal with this version of "enough" (though he has his own bogles about "enough").  Anyway, it seems that not enough is still triggery for me.  Weird, huh, how early habits can carry through your life?

Green greenness.

It took me a while to get my composure back, though if you plonk me in the middle of nature, even a suburban park, I will regain it, possibly more quickly than in any other situation,  I kept plodding along, admiring the greenness and the little creek that I was following.

Salmonberry, Rubus spectabilis

By the time I reached the end of the trail and had the car in my sights, DH appeared from the other direction, bearing apple juice.  He apologised for being cranky with me and things were okay again.

Tonight we went to a friend's "hooray I quit my job and I'm going back to uni" party, and I went for another stroll, mostly because I needed to walk off two meat patties and a fair amount of pulled chicken.  They live near Green Lake and I've often wanted to walk around there in the late afternoon/early evening.

Green Lake at dusk

So that is a quick round up of the last few weeks.  I will soon have another quilt done and TWO knitting projects (both shawls, both need blocking).  But first I have to help DH move an absolute mountain of vegie patch mix/mulch we got for the back yard.  It turns out that 8 yards of the stuff is a LOT!  I had to go buy a wheelbarrow (which I'd been thinking of doing for ages anyway but this pressed the point!).