Tag Archives: reminiscence

Blackberries

photo courtesy of freepixels.com
photo courtesy of freepixels.com

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.

Blessings!
Lianne

Lilipily Spirit – Empower Your Life , Connect with the Divine

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Coins

CoinsWhen I was a young girl, the Australian currency was pounds and pennies (pence). The penny was not even the lowest coin. The lowest coin was a half-penny. That is half a cent, today!

For a half-penny, I could go to the local ‘milk bar’ (variety grocery store) and buy a paper bag bigger than my head, filled to overflowing with a wide array of assorted lollies (candy).

I could also go see a movie at the local cinema for the matinee session on Saturdays.

I loved the sound of the money words they had, then. You didn’t say ‘harf’ penny for a halfpenny, you said, ‘hay’ penny. Two pennies were tuppence. Four pennies were fourpence. Six pennies were sixpence.

A shilling or ‘bob’ was the equivalent of ten cents, today. A two shilling coin was known as ‘two bob.’ (That was the sum always slipped to me and my sister by our adoptive grandfather during rare visits to his home). In Australian colloquialism, when someone had an opinion, they were “putting in their two bob’s worth.”

A quid was a pound note. (A dollar in Australia, today, but still worth two dollars in the United Kingdom). The quid was also part of Australian colloquialism. If you wanted to say you didn’t really care about something, you’d say, “I don’t give a quid!”  If you really wanted something, you’d say, “I’d give a quid for that!”

The sixpence was my favorite. – that was the third coin up from a halfpenny, and my Nanna put lots of sixpences in her delicious brandy-soaked plum pudding each Christmas. My cousins and sister and I would gobble it down, mucking through the yellow custard drizzle to find our treasure and race to the ‘milk bar’ before the grocer went home for his own family celebration.

My sister forgot to check for sixpences one year and swallowed hers. It was a long wait over the dunny (toilet bowl) before she saw it again. My uncle also chipped a tooth on one he forgot to sort with his tongue. That only added to the fun for us. There were risks involved in getting your sixpence, and most kids love a challenge.

After the currency changed, Nanna kept a hoard of sixpences just for the Christmas pudding. When we found one after that, we would be given a five cent piece to spend.

It just didn’t have the same feeling to it. When you have to stop and wait for Mum or Nanna to get their purse to swap the coin, you can’t get the lead on your cousins and buy out all the best lollies at the shop before their legs can get them there… As well, instead of a huge bag of lollies, we could buy just twenty with five cents (…I know, still more than my grand-daughters can buy today).

I missed seeing the lovely young queen on the back of the old coins. She had long strings of ribbons and curls blowing in the wind. The queen that came with the new currency was older and had a saggy chin (although she did have a tiara). She didn’t look so happy.

I did like the variety of Australian wildlife on the new coins, though. The old bounding kangaroo was getting a bit stale by then.

Even when Australian money became ‘americanized’ in the 1960s (albeit not as greenbacks, but with bright and happy colors), one cent went a very long way. The average wage was about $40 a week. A car cost a few hundred dollars. A house was a few thousand dollars. It’s amazing to think of the difference in cost between those things now and then, but the truth is that the value is still about the same. All they did was increase the numbers, so the wage went up at the same time as the cost of purchases. That’s called inflation.

My school was into teaching the value of savings when I was a kid, and bankers sometimes visited our class to spread the word. They even gave us free tin moneyboxes that looked like pieces from a monopoly game, but when you rarely see money at all, saving it seems such a waste when you could go and buy that comic book you would never be able to get any other way…

My money box never got filled up. I had good intentions, but the comic books always won.

My mother would sometimes stoop to pick up a coin as we walked along a city street. She’d say, “See a coin and pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck.” I never saw her get particularly lucky, though.

She had a similar mode for bird poop falling on her shoulder or head. She thought that if she bought lotto before cleaning it off, she’d win. She never did. So I had to learn to not worry too much about being embarrassed about the way my mother looked… Hey, it was all for a good cause!

Once I started earning my own money, I learned the value of having a large purse. Every time I bought something, the coin section would swell with new change. It didn’t matter how many times I tried to count out that change to spend on another item and get rid of it, it was soon back and stretching the leather.

I always wondered why guys (or in Aussie lingo, blokes) didn’t have coin sections in their wallets. Well, some did, but they were so small you’d never get any real change into them. I wasn’t surprised that men didn’t even try.

I was surprised that they just put the loose change in their pocket. I thought, maybe they like the sound of that change jangling together as they walk? Then, I’d see them running and wonder how the change didn’t fall out. It wasn’t until I started putting my hands into my future husband’s pockets for fun that I realized that men’s pockets are super deep. Then I got very jealous…

Of course, after we began living together, I didn’t mind him putting his change in his pockets when I vacuumed the couch and found a trove under the cushions. My mother taught me well. “Finders keepers!” she would say when she found coins in her couch…

When bank cards began to circulate in the 1980s, everyone was wary. The thought of swiping a card to buy something seemed ludicrous. How could we trust the banks at their word that they wouldn’t take more money from our accounts than what we had actually spent?

For a long time, I resisted getting a bank card. I liked to have control over my own money, not rely on others being trustworthy enough to handle it for me. (Well, I was right to worry, since now I pay debit fees for using my own money, when back then it didn’t cost anything to get some from a friendly bank teller).

It’s strange how time inures you to things. Eventually, resistance to trends wears down until you just give the new modes a try. (It’s good that some trends pass, though, or my sister would still have a skinhead hairstyle, today). One day I gave in to the bombardment of applications in my letterbox and have never really looked back.

Today, my purse is stretched not by coins but by cards. I have cards for just about everything. I have to prioritize which cards to leave at home and which ones I really need in my purse, because otherwise I can’t shut the thing.

For years, everything was bought with a swipe. My purse had rarely seen notes or coins, but now a new wave of shopkeepers are bucking the trend and going back to ‘cash only’ sales. It’s very frustrating to want the delectable pastry in the bakery window, only to be told I need to find an auto-teller to get the cash to buy it. That’s not convenience!

As well, I had to learn to hoard gold coins somewhere in my bag ($1 and $2 in Oz), for the times my grand-daughters were with me and came across one of those rides they scatter through shopping malls. (I know, I could have said no, but I’m a grand-mother, now!)

My disabled son goes to the bank each week and gets his allowance out in lots of bagged coins that he uses to pay for his purchases. I thought this was just another of his oddities until I finally ‘twigged’ why he did it.

Being disabled and only able to use one hand, he had difficulty handling notes. They would often fly away or fall to the ground as he fiddled with his wallet.

He didn’t like to use his eftpos card because he knew that he had a limit to what he should be spending, and his short term memory loss meant that he could easily forget how much he had spent and would eat into the money he needed for bills. So his solution was to get coins.

I thought this would be a problem in most shops, counting out the coins so laboriously, but most shop-keepers are very patient with him, (possibly because he has a lovely smile). They also are often glad of the extra coins for their till. When people buy things with notes, these days, the notes are usually large ones, and that means that cashiers need a lot of change.

I still have a penny in my drawer at home with the year of my birth on it. It is smooth and dark brown, with a bounding kangaroo on one side. I remember getting pennies when I was young that were bright pink copper, just minted, but if I cleaned my old coin today that apparently reduces its value. Not that the year of my birth is a good year for rare pennies. They minted lots and lots of them, then. So the value is all for me.

Blessings!
Lianne

Lilipily Spirit – Empower Your Life, Connect with the Divine