Thank you to all my mothers

On the eve of Mother’s Day in Australia, this piece from Felicity Ward in The Age struck a chord with me.

I began thinking of all the other mothers I’ve had over the years. Most of my teachers were women, and many of them taught me how to be a professional. Mrs Pat Judd gave me a passion for books in schools (my own mum gave me a passion for books in general). Miss Verway was a great teacher AND a style icon. Mrs Norman’s gentle insistence on the importance of English continues inspiring me today. And there were many more.

But I find that it is the women who were friends of my parents that have had a lasting influence on my personal life.

My first best friend’s mum, Pamela, was beautiful. High cheek bones, blond hair swept into a chignon, beautiful clothes, beautiful home, tennis morning lifestyle. But there was also a reserve which was hard to penetrate. She was cool, in that brittle way women of a certain class have. I was always worried that I was going to break or wreck something in that house, and I would be always thinking about how I spoke or ate or sat. Pam was a proper lady. And yet, when I unexpectedly got my first period on a sleepover at their house one summer, she was actually quite wonderful about it – concerned and helpful and motherly and caring. We haven’t spoken for many years, probably not since my wedding, 1991, which was the same year that her daughter, Mandy, got married, and then died of ovarian cancer. We both turned 25 that year, 11 days apart. Pam and John moved back to Sydney and rarely come to Melbourne. But Pam taught me a lot about how to behave in ‘company’, and how to be ‘classy’, which was good for a free-range kid like me.

Margie was the mum of my kid brother’s best friend, and our families have known each other for 40 years. We are the only people that call her Margie, she prefers Margaret, but I didn’t find that out until years later – she’s Margie to us. A big woman, with a huge bust, a huge laugh and a huge heart, Margie was a fabulous cook and a fearsome disciplinarian, and wielded a wooden spoon with abandon, whacking cakes and bums with equal gusto. A ‘stay-at-home’ mum, she loved her husband and kids with a passion, and loved anyone else in the house in the same way. Margie died just a few weeks ago, cancer again, and at the remembrance arvo tea their little house in Somerville was chock full of people who loved her and missed her. Margie was the ‘mum’ of mums.

If Margie was the house mum, Jen is the earth mother. A hippie long before hippies were ‘in’ and also well after they were out, Jen has been making the world more sustainable for years. At their house in Balnarring, the tennis court was ripped up and replaced by an extensive and well-maintained vegie patch, in which Jen grew produce to feed the family all year round. She churned butter, had bees, and they eventually moved to a property at Dargo, which needed reclaiming from the ravages of being over-farmed and over-run by weeds. Jen and Norm grew a business out of that passion – Dargo Walnuts. Jen’s self-sufficiency in the face rampant consumerism was and is to be admired, and her passion for it inspires me to grow something in my little backyard. And she’s a divine human being as well.

Sue. How can I explain this woman to you? And what she means to our family? A smoker for most of her life, Sue is a loud, cranky, passionate teacher. I thank the good goddess that I never had her as a teacher, because she scared the living crap out of my friends that did have her. Sue expected the best from her students every day, and heaven help you if you didn’t rise to the challenge! Expect an earful, young ‘un! What stops her from being mean with it? Damn, that woman has the twinkliest eyes, and her love for what she does and who YOU are shines out of her like a bloody lighthouse. She CARES – capital letters are required because then you can’t avoid it. I’ve known Sue my whole life – she was my Dad’s first girlfriend (she says) and they grew up together, as I grew up with her daughter, Sam. Sue is possibly the most positive person I know. Also one of the most outspoken, with views on politics (left), feminism (pro) and everything else in between – including her concern for me verging on the anorexic (ha!). She can talk to anyone about anything. She loves food. And her kids. All her kids, regardless of which family they come from. Sue is my mother from another grandmother.

The Erith Mob Godmothers. Hilary, Jenny, Nita (the empress). It’s hard to quantify this effect this group of older ladies had an me, other than to say that they delivered unconditional love and acceptance to me and to many others. Nita (our other Nan) died a few years ago, but would greet me as if I was one of her own children  Hilary, the long-suffering footy widow (and that is tongue in cheek, as I’m sure she did a little happy dance as the footy fanatics left the house every Saturday) is quietly and consistently loving to all and sundry. And Jenny is a footy fanatic like me, loves the Dees and is cranky and passionate about pretty much everything. The pillars of the Mob.

My Nan. My Dad’s mum. She was our rock. A fantastic cook, knitter, crocheter, philanthropist (she gave away hundreds of knitted dolls, ducks, owls, ‘Harrys’, blankets and more to charity), wife and mother. Before she got diabetes and stopped ‘working’ she was a successful business woman, running a butcher shop, a milk bar and then a wool shop in partnership with my Gump. A Christian in the true sense of the word, she gave and gave, to strangers and to family. ‘Nanny Roast’ became a Sunday night ritual, with more than 20 people for a sit-down meal every week. Holidays were spent laying in front of the TV at Nan’s being fed at intervals – although dinner was always a sit-down affair. Canasta, ‘haggis’, hypos, swearing – which she came to late in life but embraced wholeheartedly – Nan was an old-fashioned lady that took on the modern world and won. I miss her every, single day. I hope I can be half the grandmother she was to me when me girls have kids of their own.

And Mum. The Big Bomba. Independent, a seamstress, an artist, a ground-breaking historian, a reader, and a writer. A feminist in the true sense of the word – that building people up and helping them to get better at what they do is how the world is improved. She is the icing on my mummy cake. Which she would certainly cook a million times better than me. It’s hard to included all the amazing things that my Mum does. Because there’s been heaps.

I will have left someone important out of this list. I’ve really focused on those early influences in my life, those women who grew me up. I think I turned out OK – and it’s mostly due to this motherhood of amazing women.

And I’m thinking to myself, just quietly, aren’t I lucky.


Every now and then the universe sends you a reminder to be thankful for the people you have in your life.

Yesterday I was sent a huge reminder.

My eldest daughter had all four wisdom teeth removed on Tuesday afternoon. It was a routine operation, she came out of the general anaesthetic without too much disorientation, seemed to be coping well with the inconvenience the local anaesthetic was having on how her tongue and lips were functioning, and went with James and I for a ‘sleepover’ with a family that we have known for many years.

Wednesday also went well, with Molly continuing to eat and drink, and the pain and inflammation meds were doing their job.

And then it all went pear-shaped on Thursday morning.

Having got up at about 5am to take a dose of tablets, Molly started to feel very unwell, and at about 7am she thought that she was going to be sick. She got out of bed to find something to vomit into, and her boyfriend, Simon, came to get us.

When I got down to the bedroom Molly was lying on the floor with her head in bin. She was jerking and not breathing.

I cannot tell you the pure panic and fear that flooded my body. There are no words to describe it, other than to say I NEVER want to be in that position again.

Every single thing I’ve ever learned about CPR left my brain. Everything except for “call the ambulance”, which I yelled out for James to do.

By the time he arrived with the phone on his ear I had turned Molly over onto her side, but she still wasn’t breathing. I knew that my brain had totally shut down and I was going to be no use to Molly in that state, so I made James give me the phone while I spoke to the operator.

I gave the operator our address and the details of the situation, and by the time she started asking me about Molly’s current state of health James had done the head tilt and open mouth part of the DRSABCD and Molly had, thankfully, mercifully, wonderfully, started breathing on her own again. But she wasn’t conscious, and we still needed the ambulance to come. Once we had established that Molly was really breathing on her own, the operator (the wonderful, calm, experienced, brilliant operator) rang off and left me to guide the ambulance into the house. I have no idea what they did in that room – there was barely enough space for the three of them and Molly – so Simon and I waited in the sunroom while James watched the ambos do their thing.

When I heard them ask Molly to sit up, my heart leapt, and when she got up and walked unsteadily to the ambulance, it sang.

James went in the ambulance to Frankston Hospital and Simon and I had something to eat and I had a shower. This sounds odd I know, but I also put on a slow-cooked chicken curry before we left! Based on our experience on Tuesday I was in no mood to get home and cook dinner after spending the whole day in the hospital!

In the end, we were home again in time for lunch. The doctors and nurses at Frankston Hospital took over from the Vic Ambo crew, and cared for Molly brilliantly. Their diagnosis was that Molly had suffered a vasovagal incident – that is, the nerve that controls breathing and swallowing in the throat stopped functioning as it should – it had shut down in fact – and that was why she stopped breathing. They were also quite mystified as to why Molly hadn’t been told to take the pain and inflammation meds on a full stomach. This is a question I will be asking the Epworth, the surgeon and the pharmacist!

The Frankston Hospital staff were very calm about the whole thing, but I have to tell you, I have been less than calm over the last few days.

What keeps going through my head is “What if Simon hadn’t stayed over?” What if Molly had been in her bedroom, with the door shut, and got up to be sick and collapsed on the floor – and we hadn’t heard any of it? Would she have started breathing again on her own? Or would we have lost her?

I feel like this is going to haunt me for a while. Damn, we were so lucky. We are so lucky.

But most of all I am grateful: to Simon for coming to get us; to the ambos; to the hospital staff; to our litigation-happy society that means that we get trained in CPR every year; and to whatever it was that made all of that possible.

Be grateful people.

Sometimes, you aren’t fully aware of what you are blessed with until its existence is threatened.

And, for your enjoyment, is a video of Molly telling us a story about being in post-op while eating jelly. You’re welcome.



The quest to reimagine our garden continues, with the planting of some more natives – this time around the pool area.

Flanked by the ubiquitous pittosporums, we have put in some Grevillea Olivacea and some Callistemon ‘Little John’ to screen the fence and provide some much needed flowers and nectar to attract bees for the vegies and fruit.

The Olivacea should grow up to about 8′ (2.4m) and the Little John will be a nice little shrub in front at about 1m.

The Pool - Before

The Pool – Before

The Pool - After

The Pool – After


And for those following along – here is the progress of the Tigerella and Black Russian tomatoes, and the Thai Chilli, from Diggers, in the side garden which used to look like this….

Side garden - Before

Side garden – Before

and now looks like this…

Tigerella, Black Russian and Thai Chilli

Tigerella, Black Russian and Thai Chilli

There is also an assortment of tomatoes to the left of this clump which includes Grosse Lisse and Artisan Mix. They are coming along slowly – mostly because the weather has been warm without the lovely rain we had at the end of spring.

It will be interesting to see what condition the garden is in when I get back from the UK and Europe in three weeks time! You can follow my OS adventure on my new blog.



Summer Gardening

If you follow this blog on a regular basis you will know that:

  1. I am a terrible blogger , and
  2. Our garden is full of pittosporum hedges, which are fine if used judiciously but overpowering in the numbers planted in our garden.

So, over the last few years we’ve been systematically removing selected areas to either create vegetable gardens or to get some flowering natives into the garden for the birds and the bees.

Today we removed the stumps of the pittosporums in the side garden, dropped in 3 bags of compost, and levelled out the surface ready for a bummer bumper* crop of tomato seedlings.

*Kudos to Wilhelmina for her fully sick proof-reading skilz!

Side garden ready for tomatoes

Side garden ready for tomatoes

Tomato seedlings bursting out of their tray!

Winter gardening update

A big weekend of digging holes (husband) and then filling them in (me):

In the front garden – moved the pot-bound strappy palm thingies (we inherited them so I don’t what plant they are) to a position along the fence in a group and popped in a self-rooted succulent that is everywhere in the garden and just seems to be indestructible.

Strappy things and succulents

Strappy things and succulents

Also planted two new Grevillea Johnsonii

Grevillea ???

Grevillea Johnsonii

to accompany the previously planted Grevillea Hookeriana and Correa Pulchella (Orange Glow)

Grevillea Hookeriana

Grevillea Hookeriana


Correa Pulchella “Orange Glow”










and moved two Osmanthus Heterophyllus Purpurea to the side fence to replace a couple of other “strappy things”.

I also moved the runaway Basil Bush from the veggie patch into a pot as it was encroaching on the broccoli and silver beet, moved most of the silver beet to another bed because it was too squashed in with the broccoli, and pulled out the root of one of the ubiquitous pittosporum trees that we inherited from the previous owners, and which we are gradually removing and replacing with either productive beds or flowering shrubs to encourage the bees and the birds.

I’ve been getting treatment for a pinched nerve in my back from Charlie Kornberg at Brighton Spinal Group (cannot recommend him highly enough!) and thought it would be a good idea to do all these jobs at once. Wrong! Spent the following morning in bed when I should have been at work. I totally overdid it – which Charlie had predicted would happen because I feel so much better now I’m getting the proper treatment.

Ah, well. The garden looks good and it makes me happy to do it. And that’s all I need.