Monday, March 22, 2010

Unravelling the Past 

If you lived in 1880s and needed a fly trap what would you do? You may have added this cleverly designed glass fly catcher to your household possessions and outsmarted the many bugs looking for a free meal in and around your kitchen.
In some Australian homes and verandahs, a little pool of milk or sugar water was added to the reservoir at the bottom of a glass trap, along with a lighted candle in the base. When those pesky bugs came a crawlin, they were lured into the bottle through the top opening by the flame and the sweet smell of something promising. This is where the good times ended for the bugs, as they soon drowned in their gluttonous pursuits.
Just another random find from our weekend at French Island where we explored some of the tricks used by Victoria's early pioneers.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Glimpse of Yesterday

During our anniversary getaway last week, John and I took the ferry from Phillip Island to the neighboring French Island. In contrast to Phillip Island's hum, French Island is a quick escape for those wishing to experience a quiet eco friendly day in the bush by the sea. After a short bus tour we stopped at the historical Bayview Chicory Kiln where our hosts offered a delicious Devonshire morning tea. Homemade scones with jam and cream were served with chicory drinks in the remains of the building which once housed a thriving chicory business.

Chicory is a blue flowered plant, with a tuber that grows under the ground like the tap-root of a dandelion. It was first grown in the area in the 1870s as a coffee substitute and favored as an additional crop and enterprise by many Gippsland dairy farmers.
Does chicory feature in my novel set on Phillip Island in the 1870s? Yes indeed! Another fun reason to keep going back for more research.

To make use of chicory it must be dried soon after harvesting. This is why many dilapidated chicory kilns dot the landscape of Phillip Island. In the late 1800s the labor intensive process required the chicory to be washed, sliced and dried over a 24 hour period. It was then bagged and sent to coffee merchants who roasted and added it to their blends. Chicory is still used in many products today as it is cheaper than coffee and caffeine free.

At the Bayview Chicory Kiln on French Island, a mini museum of all things colonial and chicory, we spied an interesting object which begged the question, What am I?
Made of glass it has an opening at the top and another larger opening underneath.  (In this photo it looks like the hole is on the outside, but it is centered right underneath.) After some deliberating with our fellow tourists we correctly worked out the function of this clever historical devise. And now it's your turn.

Do you recognize this functional item from the 1890s? No home should be without one. A good clue is the shallow lip that runs along the base and the large opening. Let me know what you think...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Buckets Full of Treasure

This week, to mark the occasion of our 20th wedding anniversary, John and I spent some time away at Phillip Island. I have written about this island here before. It's the setting for my current historical romance. But it's also the setting of real life for my own family. 

Papou and Yiayia's beach house represents so much more to us than just a getaway. It holds memories of beloved family members no longer with us, who paved the way for us to adopt this destination as our family's holiday playground. In the summer, only a short walk from our front door, the rock pools are where each one of our babies discovered the joys of beach-combing, and learned when you slip on a wet rock you end up nappy first in the water. In the winter, the lesson they revisited was how close they could come to the waves without getting a boot full of cold water - a game they still play, but without the gum boots!

Faded beach buckets live under the house now,  covered in cobwebs, but they once held such fine treasures. Rocks, delicate shells, seagull feathers and seaweed berries joined us on the uphill path back to the house, only to be forgotten in the desperate rush for clean baths and food. Plastic boats and shovels sleep under the house too, until perhaps a future generation will dust them off and reclaim them. 

For now though, the beach is a place to sleep, tan, read and master the art of skim boarding. Hole digging is still on the to-do list, but we now use Papou's man size spade and dig holes designed to swallow a small human. Instead of Mum and Dad carrying all the gear, as well as toddlers on their back, we share the job of carting our stuff down to the sand. Like the ebb and flow of the tides, we have not stood still. As a family we are constantly changing and growing. But even with the passing of time, there is one part of this island which remains the same for me.

The summer I was 19 we visited our uncle and aunty at their beach house on the other side of the island.  I snuck away to sit on a windblown cliff top overlooking Bass Strait and pleaded with God to give me a treasure I had spied. I couldn't fit him in a bucket, but he'd  found a place in my heart. A few months later my prayers were answered when John asked me to marry him. I could never have imagined so many of our family's days would be played out near the very spot I had prayed for this man to become my husband. 

We are often at a cross road when we visit Phillip Island with the summer break from school, or the holiday weeks between terms. There is always a new chapter about to begin, and this calls for prayerful thanks to God for sustaining us through what we've passed, and committing ourselves to His will for what's about to come. When I was 19 I only looked ahead at what tomorrow promised. A little over twenty years later, I'm not in such a rush anymore. 

As the years pass like shifting sand, the one true constant is a God who hears and answers prayers. 
Those of a teenager in love, of a young couple just making their way into marriage, prayers of delightful thanks, of heartbreak and sorrow, and prayers for deliverance and guidance. It has and will  always remain the beach where I bring my words to God. 

This weekend we offered many words of gratitude. We looked back a little and dared to dream of future days. God heard and saw it all... as He has always done.

Psalm 66: 19, 20

 God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.

 Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer 
      or withheld his love from me!

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Note
 by Angela Hunt
This week I read the sort of book I would like to write one day. It had me thinking about the characters even when the book was out of reach while I was doing other things. You've read books like that too, I'm sure. You think you'll finish the chapter and put it away until later on.... but then later on arrives and you're still sitting where you were an hour ago. And you're still reading!

This book is not a new release. In fact The Note was even made into a movie a few years ago. But it was my first time reading this writer and I think I gulped it down quicker than I normally do. That's what happens when the book's a good one and you can't let it go. But there was one moment when I had to put the book down. 

There I was curled up in my favorite comfy wingback, book in hand, coffee in the other, when the story took an unexpected twist.  Startled, I took a deep breath at the same moment my lips took a sip of coffee. A mixture of coughing and spluttering forced me to put the book down and rescue the remains of my hot drink... all the while pondering this sudden switch for the protagonist. 

I can remember a few times in my life when reading has got me in trouble, (mainly caused by selective hearing) but I've never risked a scalding as the result of a good book. After laughing at myself and reclaiming my reading spot, I had a silent word with Angela Hunt, the author of this book.

"You got me in an emotional grip back in chapter one. What I didn't expect was to almost choke and burn as I neared the final chapter. Thanks for the great read. And thanks for the great writing lesson."

Have you read anything recently which almost made you fall out of your chair? Good writing does that. Writers aim to move their reader emotionally, but sometimes they can also experience a physical shift.
A book may move you to change your habits, inspire you to take action or give you the courage to take  baby steps. Words crafted by a storyteller can transport you to another world, while words flung by an angry heart are like drawn swords. (Ps 55:21) 

Thank you Angela Hunt. Your words were like a bomb blast.