Buttons and bread


Buttons are small daily objects that quietly connect things. They join things up, they hold us together. This blog features buttons as a way of reminding us of the little things that lie behind the actions we take to build strong communities.


The other part of this blog’s title represents the nourishment we get from participating in community life and that we can offer to others also. It is not the nourishment of the exotic, but the everyday sustenance of regular connections, ongoing work and play – bread rather than caviar.

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Cupcakes given to me by the lovely admin team at work to celebrate my birthday. We cut them up and shared them around. Yum!

It’s my birthday week this week and I have had a very happy time celebrating my incredible good fortune to be here at all and to have had the lucky, mostly happy life that I have had. So much of life is chance it seems to me. Getting the specific set of genes that got me to be me in the first place, then being born when and where I was, and not somewhere grimmer, and then all the other good fortune all down the line – some of which is the luck of avoiding misfortune – the sliding doors to more difficult chapters of life that may have happened but didn’t.

One sad thing this week is the death of one of my favourite clients. I worked with this guy (whose first initial was G) for around 6 months – he had very bad health (or he wouldn’t have got to me) – and was frail in most ways. He was a tall man, and weighed less than 50 kg – he had great difficulty swallowing, among other things. He was mentally frail as well as physically, and it was quite difficult to understand his speech to begin with. However, once we got going, I really enjoyed talking with him. He was funny and warm.

I had an appointment with him one week, but the day of the appointment I felt really unwell – flu-ish (it turned out to be the start of the illness that I was hospitalised for myself). I went to work partly as we had to sort out his electricity bill, and I didn’t want him to be cut off, but I didn’t want to actually see him as I thought I might be contagious (good call Elizabeth!). So I ended up in the office with two phones in action, him on one line, the electricity company on the other – speaker phones, microphones, the lot. His voice was quite soft, so there was yelling and repeating things across the various ethers – ridiculous, but it got done in the end and we all hung up with me promising to ring him in a few minutes to check that all was ok after I had done the paperwork that was required. I did so, and he answered the phone saying “This is ground control”, which cracked both of us up.

I feel really lucky to have met him, and to have shared a little of our time on the planet, but I am sorry his life (and death) was so difficult. There are many people who don’t get much of a chance in our society, who are disregarded by the powerful and are subjected to indignities and disrespect in so many ways. They haven’t asked for it, and don’t have much control over it. It drives me nuts when I see it, and I do, again and again. Life is complex, and people too. I am sure this man was also really hard to live with and would not always have been a good father to his kids, but he was a decent guy, and with different luck along the way, he may have had a happier life and an easier death. He would have known he was loved – and as it stands, I don’t know that he did.

So, if you are reading this post, please raise a cheer for G. He had an impact on me, and I won’t forget him. (And here is David Bowie in his honour)


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Beauty and butterflies in the ‘burbs


Butterfly made from recycled plastic lids

I went to a fantastic event this week. It was a celebration of the Hackham West People Matters Group, which has been running for 10 years – a group of residents and service providers working together to develop and advocate for Hackham West. I was part of the group in the early years, before things changed at work, and it was a total thrill to see everyone and celebrate their latest project – the butterfly garden.

This garden is being created in a park in Hackham West, which previously was a patch of grass pretty bare of everything. It was the site of the memorial to Jacquie, the local woman killed through domestic violence some years ago now. Since that time there has been steady work by the community to develop the area, make it more beautiful.

Debbie and her son Sam have been really crucial to this work. Sam is home schooled, and one of his projects has been working on the butterfly garden – exploring ways to encourage butterflies to return to the suburbs, providing plants that they like, and thinking particularly about more endangered species. His mum is a community dynamo, and has been working alongside him on the project. Debbie and Sam both spoke to the group on Monday, and their passion and commitment to the area and to the work they have done together – and their support of each other – was uplifting and inspiring.

The Council has provided a beautiful sign board about local butterflies and the plants they like – it was ‘presented’ to the community by the mayor at the celebration. As well as planting for butterflies, the community has created a beautiful butterfly in the park, decorated in different small sections by many different local people – a stunning place to sit and walk around.

Other highlights of the day were hearing from local resident and worker in the HW Primary School just down the road, Jill, who has also put in years of commitment to the kids and the area, and a fantastic musical performance by Zeke from the school. He has autism and came with his teacher Tom to sing a song about it. It was truly beautiful, and he got a standing ovation from the crowd at the end of his performance. I heard him talking later with Tom – who thought he said that he ‘wanted to leave now’ and replied that that was understandable and that he had done a good job. Zeke put him right by saying loudly, ‘no I’m so relieved now!’

After all that there was a tree planting ceremony – a number of larger trees are being put in – we planted a red gum – to increase the amount of shade in the park and provide homes for other creatures. It will be a mini forest. Then it was morning tea, provided by the Food for Futures team, and totally delicious too.

I felt so proud of everyone, and of the area itself. Hackham West has a great community and has worked hard over many years to build strength and resilience. The beauty of butterflies – those delicate, strong creatures is a good metaphor for that community (most communities really) – fragile in some ways, but also resilient, persistent and transformative.

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Meet the ancestors

I am in Auburn today, and surrounded by photos of relatives and friends – mum had little suites of pictures of various branches of the family dotted throughout the house – cousins in one area, we kids in various places, dear friends on the mantlepiece, her mother and father, her special aunt, on the dressing table or on the bookshelf. They remind me of her when I see them, and of my granny, her mother (whom we called mama), who has appeared here previously (in some of the said photos, ones that are at my place). They both kept in touch with family members near and far and valued them all. There are fewer photos of dad’s rellies. They didn’t get their pictures taken very often, and so there aren’t many of them. Today I took some photos of the photos.

Mama’s parents, my great grandparents, are on the bookshelf. They died, both of them, before 1910 – her father when she was around 5 (in about 1903), of cancer of the throat and tongue (he was obviously a smoker); her mother, of rheumatic fever, in 1909, when mama was 10, nearly 11. They both missed all the big events of the 20th century, excepting Queen Victoria’s death (if that could be called a big event). As they died when she was so small herself, her impressions of them were idealised – and now even the photos are fading. but here they are…


Jeannie Dickson Brown (nee Reid) and George Dickson Brown

On dad’s side of the family, the photos only go as far back as dad’s parents. His dad, Richard Alfred Becker, died when I was small – around 4 or so. I remember him in my mind’s eye in images – a dark, quiet bedroom; a gaunt, quiet figure. We have one picture of him as a young man – I think he looks like my cousin Kevin.


I do remember his mother, Dossie May Becker nee Venning. She lived on for 20-odd years after her husband died, a very quiet, reserved person. There is one fabulous photo of her as a young woman. The story goes that her first sweetheart was killed in WW1 – and this photo may well have been taken in the time before he died.


The final photo I’ll feature here today is a group shot of my mother and her extended family, taken at some big family occasion in around 1930. Mum is in the front row, on the left, looking very bored by the whole procedure. One brother is second from the right in the front row, with a beaming smile, the other brother is in the second row from the front, second in from the right, with the curly hair. The cousins knew each other well, and it’s a picture that mum loved and got a good laugh out of. Mum’s grandparents are in the centre of the picture – mum was particularly fond of her grandmother (Rosetta, called Gran). Her father is sitting to the right of Rosetta, and her mum (Stella, or Mama to us), is second from the left in the back row.


The pictures are tiny glimpses of lives I hardly know, but they are linked to me in the inevitable way of family ties, reaching back through years, living in colour then, but now just shadows and hints. I doubt if any of them would ever have imagined the internet, and the possibility of another life on a blog written years into their future…



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Climate change – act now

Here are a couple of great shots of the old Port Willunga jetty decorated with climate change banners made by Mag. I am grateful for these ongoing reminders of this issue…

Old jetty climate change 1

Tide in, sunset

Old jetty climate change 2

Tide out, blue sky

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(Mostly) home made

I love a bit of art (I was thrilled that Vincent Namatjira won the big prize yesterday at the Art Gallery here)

but it doesn’t have to be capital letter Art to be arty; the home made and hand made are so important in providing everyday beauty in our lives – that is what I am celebrating today.

I went to see Pam earlier in the week, and she showed me a little ‘Hobbit Village’ that she has made in her garden from salvaged bits and pieces that might otherwise be thrown away…

It is whimsical and playful, and a great way to reuse some ‘old stuff’…

And then, just looking around my place, there are all sorts of hand made or home made items that add to the vibe of the place! Here are a few of the most obvious…



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Pressing on

It has been a wickedly dry and hot summer, my work-days are filled with people who are dealing with and the effects of poverty and disadvantage; struggles for truly better and more just ways of living abound. There are issues everywhere to be dealt with and not a lot of obvious will to do the dealing. The only thing to be done is press on! And be inspired by others who press on also, taking action where they can and keeping the wheels of alternative possibilities turning…

On addressing climate change some readers of this blog have been active rebels for the cause –

Nicky did a really interesting interview with a farmer and businessman, who has taken action on his concerns about climate change after hearing children ask ‘where are the adults in dealing with this.

Here is the link to the interview on Radio Adelaide.

Hobart to the Galilee Basin and back

And here is a link the marvellous Mary’s blog. Mary’s consistent small actions are really helpful in themselves, but also in assisting those of us who get a bit despondent to keep going! Picking up rubbish, pulling out weeds, mending things, planting natives – there are small and creative ways to keep working for change!

And we have had some rain – there are hints of green in Auburn and elsewhere… and birds poke their heads out of nests too if you are lucky.




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The wood (and the trees)

I have been looking at trees – and am struck by the endless beauty of them. It’s autumn now, so the leaves are particularly lovely, but the trunks and branches too, whatever the season, are just so wonderful. Here is a selection focusing mostly on the wood. I have put notes on the some of the photos re where they are. Double click to enlarge…

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