Friday, February 18, 2005


If you know your Australian history you'll know that the country was formed from 6 British colonies established on the Australian Continent between 1788 and 1851. Each colony was, by the 1880's, pretty much self governing and by 1890 it had become fashionable to think of uniting the colonies into a federation. That federation came into being in 1901 and the first Australian Federal Parliament sat in the Exhibition Buildings, Melbourne, on May 9th 1901. (I'm not going to play the game of looking up the day of the week ).

My fathers parents were born in 1892 and 1895 - my grandmother was the elder. Oswald, my grandfather, died on October 8th 1942 so obviously I never knew him. I used (some years ago) to tell people that my grandfather had died during the siege of Stalingrad which is true as far as it goes, but the statement carries implications I'd no longer claim. One might as well claim that coconuts were growing during the siege which is also true but a fat lot of good it did the Stalingraders...

I've mentioned in previous posts that we lived with my paternal grandmother until I was 8 so it would come as no surprise that she was a major influence on me during my formative years. She's the one who overrode my mothers concerns that I was reading unsuitable books (Fred Hoyle's 'Frontiers of Astronomy' published in 1954) and encouraged me to read anything that came to hand. Of course, I doubt she'd have approved if a copy of Playboy had come my way . I think I would have been one of the few ten year olds who'd ever read about Chandrasekhars limit let alone the fusion of hydrogen into helium inside stars.

To the best of my knowledge my grandmother never travelled more than a thousand kilometers from the place where she was born. I know she worked as a domestic servant in southern New South Wales in the 1910's and that she visited Tasmania in 1959* but beyond that I don't think she travelled much. This is based on conversations with my aunt, her daughter, who was a mine of information. I wish I'd thought to tape those conversations; what's left to me is only imperfect memory.

She died in 1966, Friday July 8th. By that time it had been well established in our house that we kids did the wash up after dinner. On that night I was drying the dishes. My mother broke the news that Gran had died that morning. I think I took it well; I said 'oh..' and kept on drying that damn plate. And dried it and dried it and... well you get the idea...

So what has this to do with home? Well, truth to tell, when I started this post it was going elsewhere but here we are. My grandmother, who had, so far as I can tell, never been outside of Australia, always referred to England as 'home'. Born as she was into colonial society she had been taught to regard England as home.

*I remember waving at every plane that flew over our house on the afternoon she flew to Tasmania. I also remember asking, upon her return, if she'd waved back. 'Of course', she lied. I was delighted.

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