Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The night

his morning I looked out the back yard towards the sunrise and it was really different - many colours lined across the sky, like the Aurora, so was it? This photo was not by me but this is what people have seen this week from Victoria, and is similar to what I saw. Photos are from the Geelong Advertiser - from Airey's Inlet, Black Rock near Breamlea, Barwon Heads and Flinders.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A bereavement in Geelong

(Wednesday morning) Last night about forty of us drove to a home in Moolap to pay our respects to the family of Siteri, some who had come from overseas. We gave mats, masi, kava and an envelope of money to assist with the funeral. We sang dozens of Fijian hymns - loud and clear and I was proud of our Geelong group for their attendance and fine singing. Drinking kava was part of the event. The custom of reguregu is held prior to the funeral which will be on Friday morning. The family gave us a nice curry dinner afterwards.

Wendy Ratawa I wrote this at our writing group at the Wintergarden yesterday. 

A Woman from Levuka

‘Sai Levuka ga’ we sing of a favourite town in Fiji with a row of wooden shops hugging the shore, a cemetery with historical markers, a town backed by a green wall of 
a mountain. Siteri was a child from the island of Ovalau in Lomaiviti. 

Moving to the main island, raising four children, she lived in Suva before migrating to Australia with Geoff. We met in East Geelong a few years ago. She came with her second daughter, Christine while Litea, Andrew and Kevin stayed in Fiji. Siteri established a good relationship with members of our local Unitng Church, had a reserved seat in the congregation and joined in our Fiji group. When a grand-daughter was born she ably helped with minding and later walking to school. I remember the baptism, barbecues at Eastern Beach, gatherings of dinner, kava and yarning with Fiji friends, her excellence in baking cakes and Fijian food, her lovely prayers from the heart. 

Her family came over to visit and we welcomed them – her mother Nanise, and children Litea, Kevin, Andrew. A terrible bus accident in Fiji took her mother and many others and that trauma we will remember. Later, through a time of illness, Siteri was courageous, still smiling and she was assured that God was alongside in that journey. Eventually her body let her down and her time on earth came to an end. 

In God’s grace her Spirit lives on. As we wear black, place barkcloth and mats and flowers on a grave and sing Fijian hymns such as ‘Kaya oti na noda Kalou’ we remember Siteri. Nowadays the song’ Sai Levuka ga’ is also a song of remembrance and our memory of Siteri, a lovely woman of Levuka.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Looking back - my life as a teacher

My life as a teacher

Looking back on the variety of experiences in different schools and places I realize that there were times of failure as well as positive interaction with teenage students.  Here are some of the memories of those times. I taught mainly art and music, but in Fiji added Scripture, English, History which I energised by writing plays, adding artwork and creative writing.

The first appointment was at Bendigo High School  in an annex with Forms 1,2,3,4 art and some music with a piano.  Forty children to a class was a handful but that was the norm then.  We had adequate material for painting, drawing, even pottery, the latter not successful as we had an ordinary room and clay requires a specific type of room to be able to keep clean and tidy and the school cleaner was not exactly my friend.  Work was done quickly, the students producing many paintings on newsprint, too hurried now I realize.

I went to Fiji in 1962 and taught in a variety of secondary schools, mainly at a Methodist school in Suva called Dudley High School, When we lived in Rakiraki I taught part-time because of giving birth to two little boys by then.  I became an English language teacher there and being the second language of the children they struggled with Shakespeare and so on but we got along well. Peceli was manager of a Methodist Primary School and we both taught Scripture there (unpaid of course) including participating in the celebrations when Fiji became independent in 1970.

Pictures are of view from Dudley teachers' house, Dudley school, view from my two rooms in Toorak, Suva. 
One year, living at Dilkusha when Peceli was part of a team ministry in the Indo-Fijian community, I took the bus to Suva to teach at Dudley – the whole school in stints of half an hour turnover – crazy as this included tie-dying, batik, stencilling, all sorts of things,  and Marist where I taught screen printing in the science room, blunting their precious knives. We had some good excursions those days, taking groups of teenagers down to the Museum or to a graphic art designer’s studio.

We moved to Peceli’s home-town of Labasa in 1972 and I again became a part-time teacher and the Ratawa family helped by looking after George, Robin and Andrew at home. One successful project was screen printing  at All Saints School in Labasa,  making our own printing ink with Dylon dye mixed into the paste made from boiling cassava vegetables.  Our students won all the major prizes in a national art competition so I took a group down to Suva for the prize-giving. I lost interest in teaching there though when a Hindu principal replaced the missionary head of that Anglican school and he was very dismissive of the Christian religion.
When we migrated to Australia we first went to Swan Hill and I got a short-term teaching appointment at Swan Hill Tech.  Art work in schools by then had slowed down to producing more careful, detailed, paced work, and I got stuck into lino-cuts with the students with great equipment and good results.  They were beaut students. I also taught a few students to play the piano as they had a grand piano in the school.

At Hopetoun my career as an art teacher plummeted as I wasn’t given art, but craft, using a redundant metalwork room, still with the Bunsen burners set into the benches. I decided that pottery was not on without a better room and a kiln, so ended up attempting to teach crafts such as metalwork and leatherwork, not very successfully. I wasn’t interested and passionate about it.  By then I was tired of trying to do three jobs – as the wife of a clergyman, a home-maker with three young children and as a teacher so I decided to stay at home, but of course not long after I went back to study off-campus at Deakin University in Geelong.

My life as a student

I can say that I enjoyed being a student always, more than the task of being a  teacher.  The training college years at Prahran Tech,  RMIT, Fine Arts at Melbourne University were three brilliant years, even going out to secondary schools loaded up with teaching aids was fulfilling. Then at Bendigo I spent four evenings a week at Bendigo Tech aiming to fulfil the requirements of Diploma of Art majoring in pottery. Fellow-students were mainly younger or my age – I was 20 when I started there.  It was a joyful time.

Years later, Deakin University in Geelong offered study off-campus so I started one subject called ‘Australian City’ when we lived in Hopetoun. I was lucky to be able to change to on-campus when Peceli was appointed to the East Geelong parish.  We did not only make very large drawings and painting but also photography, life drawing, and so on – all at the old RSL Mill building at the bottom of Pakington Street. To fulfil the requirements of the BA I took the bus out to Waurn Ponds campus to add anthropology and ethnic music subjects which I continued to Masters level. l loved research, the lectures in music, including a stint on Pacific music at Monash, and then I collected songs in a few weeks fieldwork  in Fiji for my thesis. There was no cost then for study – only a small student fee. I was very fortunate to do the MA then.  There were conferences also where I gave a few small lectures and mixed with the elite of the world’s top ethnomusicologists. Hmm. They mainly revamped their early research and were mainly disappointing.

Later I caught the Newcomb bus to many classes at the Gordon TAFE in Geelong, some about IT, working with images on the computer, professional writing and editing, some excellent creative writing classes. The cost was minimal then, so different to the year 2017 for TAFE subjects.  I wrote many poems, short stories, drafts of novels, and edited about ten little books.

Then came the time to stay at home more, examine the untidiness of the home base, start writing without the network of fellow-students, no longer catch the bus every second day.  I miss the interaction with students of various ages and the stimulation of hearing their stories, seeing their artwork. So  now it became just writing on two blogs – Babasiga and Geelong Visual Diary, and also mostly daily updates of trivia on facebook.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Artist living in a car at Balyang Sanctuary

Balyang Sanctuary is a lovely part of Geelong, part of the Barwon River environment and a good place for drawing. But here's a surprising story of a woman who lived in her car there and did drawings. The story ran in the Age newspaper and I've only copied part of the story.
Open Canvas puts disadvantaged artists in the frame
Next to the swaying gums and green grass of Balyang Sanctuary on Geelong's Barwon River sits a 1973 HQ Kingswood.She's seen better years – orange paint peeling, in need of a good mechanic – but somehow, she has made it through.This is Jacqui's home. She moved into her car after years spent running from abuse. It's also her studio.
It takes Jacqui about a week to complete each of her intricate, breathtaking drawings, in fine ink pen, of street scenes and parkways. She used to sell these drawings by the side of the road for $10 – "just enough to keep my car going".
But on Tuesday her work will hang on the gallery walls of fortyfivedownstairs – a stone's throw away from where rough sleepers were recently moved on from Flinders Street Station – along with works from 18 other homeless and disadvantaged artists.The exhibition has been organised by Open Canvas, a new, Melbourne-based social enterprise that offers pathways for homeless and disadvantaged artists to sell their work.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Retired Ministry Fellowship

This morning our Retired Ministry Fellowship had an end-of-year function at East Geelong Uniting Church - about 25 of us, with small gifts for each one, ( I wrapped up necklaces, one from a Maldon op-shop!) morning tea, Advent hymns, a catered lunch (which I missed because of the book-club lunch) and an excellent devotion based on the Jesse Tree, beautifully organised by Margaret and Malcolm Campbell. This is a lovely group of mainly elderly men and women who have worked in ministry up to retirement and I have known most of them for many years. They are kindly people, interested in how I am going after Peceli's death last December. I didn't take the camera but this image gives you the idea of a Jesse tree which uses symbols to tell the story leading up to the Christmas Nativity.

Brioche Cafe Geelong

Today our book club had our final meeting for the year, discussed a book La's Orchestra Saves the World
by Alexander McCall Smith, decided on eight books for next year, and had a lovely lunch at Brioche cafe in Newtown. Excellent meals for from $13 to about $17 in a very neat environment. It's in West Fyans Street Newtown, before you turn for the bridge to the Balliang Sanctuary. Website:

Geelong Brioche Cafe & Catering is in the Heart of Newtown offering beautiful coffee, food and catering. Come in for a bite or drop in for a catering quote.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

An angel at the gate

We occasionally go over to Eastern Cemetery - two minutes by car from home -  to tidy Peceli's grave and put down some flowers. It's located in the grass section, no large stones, and a flat metal plaque will be placed there by Christmas. At the entrance via McKillop Street we are greeted by this lovely statue of an angel.  I usually don't like statues like this nor all those stone carvings and blocks, but I think this one is nice.

Bad weather in Geelong

This late winter, early spring has seen stormy weather and very little sunshine in Geelong, and at times damage to roads, houses and trees.
After sunshine came the wind and the rain. During our concert the lights flickered a few times and we thought they would actually go out, but of course the band could have played on! A huge pine tree came down in nearby Eastern Park yesterday,.
Jessica Michels takes a closer look a fallen tree in Geelong's Eastern Park. Picture: Glenn Ferguson.
Change whips Geelong region after sunshine
October 31, 2016 9:56am
BUILDINGS were damaged, trees felled and power lost at thousands of homes after strong winds whipped Geelong on Sunday.
A pleasant sunny stretch gave way to wild wind gusts of more than 70kmh, as the temperature dropped from more than 24C into the mid-teens.
Buildings in Lara and Geelong West, including a Pakington St menswear business, sustained damage and trees came down across multiple suburbs.
The State Emergency Service was called to a gum tree that fell on a home in Ocean Grove, while a roof began lifting off a shopping centre in Torquay.
More than 4200 homes in Leopold, Moolap, Newcomb, Clifton Springs, East Geelong, Hamlyn Heights, Drysdale and Whittington lost power as the cold change swept through from 3pm.
Power to the 1447 affected homes in Leopold were restored within half an hour, but outages in other areas dragged on longer.
About 80 Powercor customers were affected when a tree brought down powerlines in Quamby Av, Hamlyn Heights
A fallen pine tree also blocked Holt Rd in Geelong’s Eastern Park.
Geelong State Emergency Service duty officer David Brown said units had been called to half a dozen incidents but none had been severe.
Sunday’s wind also raised dust levels, with the Environment Protection Authority warning that poor air quality would potentially continue into Monday.
Strong winds are expected to continue across the Geelong and Surf Coast region today, with possible showers and hail.
Rain is also likely to fall in the region on Melbourne Cup Day, with a top of 18C expected.

Fixed account

A knowledgable young man has fixed my account so now I can post again, so I'll write something soon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Almost a flood in Geelong

With all the heavy rains each day in Geelong there's a possibility of flooding in parts of Geelong with several road already closed. At Fyansford the river is really running now at Buckley's Falls.  And down near Lorne there have been land-slips onto the Great Ocean Road, and towns such as Birregurra are flooded.