photo courtesy of
photo courtesy of

Summer is already sending heat into our house this year and on occasion we’ve been running air-conditioners to get some sleep.  What did we ever do without air-conditioners?

When I was a kid, we never had one.  My mother would put a bowl of ice in front of a rotating desk fan sitting on a chair and we would all try to find the ‘ sweet spot ‘ for the slightly cooler breeze it produced.

Later on, she purchased a water cooler, and despite warnings to the contrary, she would put ice blocks into the water reservoir.  Again, we would fight for the ‘ sweet spot ‘ where the air was coolest.

Mostly, though, all these solutions did was to push around hot air and raise the humidity in the room.

In my Nanna’s day, ( before I was born ), they didn’t have refrigerators and relied on air cupboards with mesh doors, that they hung wet cloths over to keep food and meat cool on hot days by evaporation.  (I don’t think they kept food too long, then ).

I don’t remember my Nanna ever owning a fan when I lived with her as a kid.  On hot nights, we stayed up late, sitting on the front porch trying to catch a breeze.  Nanna would fan herself with a folded newspaper and we kids would play ‘jump over the sprinkler‘ on the tiny city suburban lawn.

Water was pretty much the only coolant we had, then.  If you were hot, you either ‘flaked‘ with exhaustion, or you diverted yourself doing something else.

Going to the beach was always a great diversion, ( after my mother moved us close to one ), but that really only happened on weekends and holidays.  Plus, if the sand was hot enough to fry an egg on, it was an ordeal to run fast enough over it to get to the water in bare feet  (and thongs/flip flops did nothing to really keep the scorching sand off your feet ).

There were other diversions for the hot days of summer.  At night, (as pre-teens ), we spent hours playing in the street with the other local kids, long after it was dark.  We made up great games and had a lot of fun.

Summer was the time when parents let you stay up late even if there was school the next day, because they knew they had a hope in hell of getting you off to sleep unless you were exhausted !

One of the nicer diversions was going black-berrying.  That only happened on weekends, though.

I find it sad that you can’t really think of going black-berrying today, for fear that the wild canes have been sprayed by farmers who consider them a weed.

Going black-berrying was an adventure.  My mother would always warn us not to step too deep into the bramble because red-bellied black snakes liked to hang out in the shade, there.  We were also told to tread hard and regularly, so that the snakes did not get frightened and attack, but would instead slither off with the warning our solid footsteps gave them.

We would take lots of buckets and fill them all.  The blackberries often grew along the roadside near where we lived, then, ( on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria ).  There was a lot of farmland bordering the roads leading out of towns like Frankston, and the blackberries seemed to grow along the barbed wire fences of their borders.

There was also a lot of vacant land surrounding the Navy barracks at Crib Point, where we lived in the marriage quarters with other Naval families  ( after my mother remarried ), and that also had a lot of blackberry brambles on it.

I liked those best, because you didn’t get cars swooshing past behind you as you picked, and sometimes you’d find a ‘secret place‘ in the bramble, where the canes had formed a ring around a bare patch of grass.  When you went into those places, it was like being in another world…

We ate about a third of what we picked – my mother, my sister and I – and the rest we took home so that mum could make jam.

By the end of the day, clothes were usually torn somewhere, arms were full of scratches, and fingers had pricks or sometimes thorns that had to be removed with mum’s sewing needle  ( burnt at the tip in a match flame before digging out the thorn, so that no germs got into the skin ).  But we never remembered the heat of the day.  All we remembered was the fun of going black-berrying.

Mum would then fill her big  boiling pot early in the morning on jam making day  ( though it didn’t really stop the house getting hotter on already hot days ), and would make enough jam to last for months and still have some to give away to the relatives at Christmas ( which falls during a hot summer, in Australia ).

The trouble with my mother’s blackberry jam, though, was that after making her first batch and deciding that straining the seeds out was too much effort, she left the seeds in after that.  So when you ate her jam, you always had to pick seeds out of your teeth.

The jam was good, though, and kept hungry kids from starving at breakfast when slathered on toast, or after school in a snack sandwich.

Mum’s blackberry jam became as famous in our family as my Nanna’s apricot jam, ( but Mum’s jam didn’t have the kernels in it like Nanna’s did, which we discovered many years later had cyanide in them, so Nanna’s jam was infamous, as well ).

I can never have either blackberry or apricot jam today from the supermarket without thinking of these special jams from my youth.  Nothing has ever compared to them… not even the home-made ones I have since bought from the stalls of others.

Sadly, I was never taught the recipes – not that I really have much time for jam-making, these days.  ( My Nanna is now long gone, and my mother is no longer in my life, so these memories will be all I ever have, now ).

Instead, I do spend  a lot of time investing myself in positive activities when my days get ‘ long and hot ‘,  ( whether that is in weather or through events…)

When life is full of ‘ hot spots ‘ and you can’t  ‘ get cool  ‘,  the best way to deal with them is diversion… Don’t let being in the ‘ heat ‘  sap you of whatever energy you have.

With diversion, you can spend enough positive energy and action so that the results can bring lasting boons… ( like a belly full of blackberries, and enough jam to last through winter…)

Every experience in life is a lesson, if you remember it clearly.


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