Another weekend in Sydney, Autumn coming to an end. Today is a lovely day; nice wind blowing that is more like a feisty breeze, plenty of sunshine, and quiet. During the week we had some great rainfall throughout NSW and much of it fell in places where they haven't seen rain for a few years. I wonder if those of you that live overseas could imagine never seeing rain. Some children in those areas would have seen their first rain and experienced their first time out getting wet with water from the sky. Hard to believe, isn't it?
Here in Sydney the news was good because we actually had decent rainfall in the catchment area - another first for quite some time. Although we have had rain and our lawns are green, it's never fallen in the right place in the right quantity and so we have water restrictions. Ours are not as severe as Brisbane, for instance, where they are on a high level of restrictions now and are facing even higher come Spring (September). Of course a lot of the blame goes to the city planners for allowing such huge growth in populations of the cities without a thought for where the extra water would come from. In a country like Australia it's hard to justify that people in charge are so backward in their forward thinking.
Each time it rains I think about the water tanks my son and I have talked about having installed. They still aren't out there in the yard. From what I hear there is a shortage of tanks and people are waiting in line for installations. I also heard that the sharks are out too, making a huge profit from those that do have the tanks installed. Ah well, we are after all a nation that began with mostly convicts :)
I decided this morning to get my finger out and actually do some cooking. My son and I both work and as he is CEO of his company he has a lot of business meetings that include lunch and he isn't ever hungry for dinner. I'm happy just throwing a frozen dinner in the microwave or stirfrying some veges with an egg tossed in for good measure. I had this urge to cook; heaven knows why! However I've managed to cook up some braised steak that's gone in the freezer for another day, a pot of Indonesian curried beef that will also go into the freezer, and a no-bake cheesecake that is just delicious. In the heady days when I was married and had 3 kids at home, I used to make the cheesecake when I could afford the ingredients. So I have probably been making this recipe for close to 40 years (scary hey?)Here's the recipe in case anyone might like to try it.
2 packets of biscuit crumbs mixed together with about 3/4 of a 250g container of butter, melted. After you mix that up you put it in a cheesecake dish or pan, bringing the mixture halfway up the sides of the pan, and then put it in the freezer for a while to chill, or in the fridge for a bit longer.
In a mixer put 2 x 250g packets of cream cheese (I use the light one) and beat that up well. Add a can of sweetened condensed milk (again I use a light one) and beat that up. Then add 1/3 cup of lemon juice and a lightly beaten egg (maybe that's why I wanted to cook today - all that beating) :)
Pour the contents into the biscuit base and put it in the fridge to set. Delicious! And no baking at all so it's a great dessert for the summer as you don't heat the kitchen up with the oven. Serve it with lashings of whipped cream if you like cream.
My 4 legged mate Shaye is going to have his steak tonight in some of the gravy from the braised steak I cooked. I hope he likes it. This morning, as it's a weekend, he had vegemite on toast and banana on toast that I hand fed to him while I ate mine. I've been doing that ever since he was a little guy and he likes to share with me on the weekends. If I put it in a dish for him on the floor he wouldn't eat it. Is he spoilt? nah, just loved :)
I actually had a message on Authorsden from another author last week telling me that he had purchased a copy of my book from Amazon and it had turned up. His family has been touched by the dangers of the Internet with a family member almost losing a husband because of her dalliance with someone she met first on the Internet in chat. It was great to hear that someone has bought the book and for a reason as that's why I wrote it in the first place. My life being out there in print hasn't proved to be such a great idea as many judge those that are honest. But if I help even one person then that's justification for telling it as it was. I'm surprised that he could buy it from Amazon as when I signed a release agreement with the publisher I was assured no further copies would be printed. I assumed that I had the only copies in existence. I never received any royalties from any sales. A lesson hard learned.
Still trying to plough through this journalism course that I undertook. The reasons I'm having such a problem with it revolve around my sight problems and my lack of interest now that I know what a journalist is and does. I had the wrong notions about the job and I doubt that I would have the time required to undertake it while I am working full-time. The course itself is educational and I'm sure that for the right people it's a step in the direction they want to go. My tutor gives me good feedback on my assignments and is always supportive.
I keep daydreaming that I might win one of the RSL prize homes and be able to retire to a stunning new abode and set about writing just for the hell of it and the fun. It's a nice way to idle away a few minutes, looking at the brochures each month and seeing myself gazing out across the water from the balcony of a palace :) However if you never go you never know so I keep buying the tickets.
I have only one Aunt left from my mother's side of the family and, as my mother passed away in December 2005, she is like my mother now I guess. She has gracefully agreed, at the ripe age of 88 going on 89, to spend some time with me soon to tell me some stories about her life, and that of my mother and the rest of the family. I have great-grandparents that were both born in Germany and my knowledge of their history is sparse - just a photo of the family with my Nan the youngest. Because they were German, no one spoke about the family in fear of retribution. The family name, Werner, was lost of course when my Nan married. I didn't know about the German heritage until I was in my late teens. How sad is that?
I intend to write up a history of the family from what I can learn from my Aunt with my special interest of course being my mother and father. My Aunt acted as go-between with mum and dad because my mother played my father along for a number of years before she finally said 'yes'. She told it to me that she said yes so he would stop pestering her. When my mother died I kept her letters that I found in a box with a lot of photos and other memorabilia she kept hidden away. There are many letters in there from my father to my mother before they married and I only read a couple before I felt like I was spying.
My parents both lived in Canowindra NSW. My father lived on a dairy farm that his father worked and my dad and his brothers worked there as well. My mother lived with her family on another property and my grandfather used to trap rabbits and sell the pelts, as well as working around the district. My father used to work around the district as well, shearing and farming to help his father with money to keep the farm going. While he was away he used to write to mum and one of the letters I did read he spelt it out for her. He told her that if she didn't make up her mind about him he was going to join the Army.
When my dad's father died after falling from a horse, the farm fell apart and dad and his brothers all had to leave to come to Sydney to work. The second world war was already blasting away overseas. My mother came to Sydney too with her sisters that were old enough to leave home for work. Dad went to work at the Ford Motor Company and that was where he stayed during the War. Mum finally relented and they were married in Sydney just after mum came out of hospital after a gall-bladder operation that was almost fatal. Her mother and father were called to her bedside as it was feared she was dying and they travelled by train from the country to Sydney. She was 23 I think at the time. When she recovered enough to leave the hospital and return to the country to recuperate, she and dad were married and then she left with her parents for Canowindra.
My dad used to go home to Canowindra and mum whenever he could and during one of those visits my mum fell pregnant with my brother John. Unfortunately my father had carried with him the german measles infection and passed it on to my mother. German measles had broken out in the camps where the soldiers were around Sydney and it spread and people didn't even know they had it, most just thinking it was a heat rash.
My brother was born with dreadful life threatening disabilities - his heart was damaged, he was blind and retarded. And yet from the photos I have of him he was the most beautiful little boy, angelic almost with his blonde curly hair and his fair skin. He died before his 4th birthday, alone in a mental hospital in Newcastle as my mum had a nervous breakdown after my second brother, Philip, was born. John was taken from mum into care.
So there's a lot of history there and a lot I don't know about. My mother and I never had much of a relationship at all, or a friendship, and I often wondered if I was adopted (I secretly hoped I was and that someone would come and find me one day). But I had the most wonderful loving father that a girl could ever have and I cherish the memories of him. I want to learn about mum and dad in the days before they were married in an effort to understand my mother. I doubt that I will though because I probably won't find out what was in her head when she kept spurning dad and yet on the other hand, kept him around. Why did she also spurn me, her only daughter? Maybe my aunt has the answer because, as I said earlier, she had secret letters going back and forth to and from my dad when she kept him informed of what mum was doing. She also spent a lot of time with mum helping her out with John and Philip.
Life is stranger than fiction and every family has its secrets that are never unlocked or are maybe unlocked by someone like me. I need answers and I know that if I read my dad's letters I will find a lot of them. And yet, I feel like an intruder by reading them. Guess I will work it out one of these days and either read them or bury them with my parents' ashes in my brother's grave.
Enough meandering for today. I think that perhaps I have the makings of another book with the story of my family and it's an idea that is just behind my eyes ready to be hatched once I get with my Aunt and have some words from her to work with.
Until next time, take care :)
Copyright Vena McGrath 19.5.2007