Buttons and bread

Buttons

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.

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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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Autumn in winter

The trees are still glorious, the skies blue (yesterday anyway), the mornings are crisp, the season hasn’t closed in. It has been very dry, and cool but not really wintry much yet. I went looking for colour yesterday, when thinking of this blog, and I wasn’t disappointed. Here is some of what I found…

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The library, the footy, it’s a small world

Football spectators 1923

Spectators at a football match in South Australia 1923

I was at the State Library today and saw an exhibition there about football in South Australia – 140 years of it. It was terrific – some fantastic old videos, photos, memorabilia, not just of the SANFL teams, but country sides too, where footy was a big part of local life and in some places still is. There were quite a few people there having a look, and I ran into Jason, a colleague from work. We exchanged thoughts about the 1972 SANFL Grand Final (highlights were on view) – North defeated Port. My dad is a big North fan, and Jason, my colleague is a Port supporter and said he had been gutted as a kid when they lost that match.

When I was a kid, Auburn had a football team in the Mid-North Football League – the other sides were Riverton, Saddleworth, Mintaro-Manoora, Robertstown and Aberdeen (Burra). The netballers (it was called basketball at the time) also played against the same towns, so women and men all headed in the same direction every Saturday afternoon through the winter months. We had a terrific footy team for a few years and were premiers in 1968. The women were successful more consistently than the men – I was a member of the C2 team which were runners up in 1971 (we lost to Saddleworth) (the highlight of my sporting life!). Mintaro-Manoora (Min-Man) had a long period of dominance in the footy – we always put it down to the fact that they got players from all over the place – our family name for Min-Man was Min-Man-Far-Wart-Black-Loo for Mintaro, Manoora, Farrell Flat, Watervale, Black Springs, Waterloo!

Anyway, it was always a great part of the week – heading off in the car to the local ground or away to neighbouring towns, cars parked around the oval, with tooting horns when our side kicked a goal, and pasties at half time from the respective kiosks. Netball games were also played throughout the afternoon – oranges at half time, assisting with scoring in matches for the other grades, barracking wildly when finals came around or in close games.

So it was good to see the displays today – old minute books from country clubs, mascots, team photos, the women’s league, the big names, church leagues, Aboriginal sides (apparently Koonibba is the oldest indigenous football club in Australia), badges, player scrapbooks, football programs, Magarey medals, footy stickers, Mail Medal winners (awards to country footballers in the various regions sponsored by the Sunday Mail) etc etc.

Football team 1925

The Koonibba team of 1925 – the white guy in the back row is the pastor, and at the front is the umpire. Not sure about the chap on the right with the hat.

Apparently football matches stopped being played during world war one as so many men were away, but in 1918 or thereabouts there was a match between two women’s teams – almost 100 years before the start of the women’s AFL.

Football women's team 1918

The women’s football match, 1918

The display also included Ken Farmer’s scrapbooks. Farmer played for North Adelaide, so I have heard a lot about him from dad. He was an amazing goal kicker – quite incredible. Once he kicked 23 goals in one game – against West Torrens: apparently he kicked 23.6 out of the side’s total score of 26.11!!!

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Ken Farmer

Libraries are wonderful keepers of records and play a key role in reminding us about the ways we have lived.  The items on display are quirky and so marvellously ordinary – they give a really strong sense of what life has been like for many people. What a gift to us all.

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Old Stuff (one owner)

I’ve been trying to tidy up a bit here at home, and have thus been looking at some of the gear I’ve got with slightly fresh eyes. For those who know me, don’t get too excited, it’s all a bit of a slow process, and I doubt anyone (sadly including myself) will see any real difference for a while yet! Anyway, I have been thinking about the things we surround ourselves with, and particularly those humble everyday bits and pieces that fulfil a function but which we don’t take a lot of notice of. I have a few things that have accompanied me through most of my life. Of course they aren’t important in themselves, but there they are anyway, holding my life within them in a way, and linked to memories of house moves and school days and reading and bedtimes and hair washes and on it goes.

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Here are the stories:

The brush was a Christmas present in 1971 – a such simple times! – I went to boarding school the following year and it went with me and has been used daily ever since.

The satin floral cloth is a ‘kimono’ mum made for me to wear in the school concert when I was in grade 2, in 1966. We did a play based on the The Mikado of all things, and the girls all had to wear these kimonos that our mothers made for us. I was convinced (and still am) that mine was the best. I think mum had the fabric in her sewing cupboard for some time beforehand – it has a ’50’s feel to it.

The blue towel, very threadbare now, was also a boarding school item. We had to take three towels with us, and I used them week by week all through those years, and then this blue one has been my hair-drying towel for decades since, three times a week. It is getting very thin now, but it’s amazing how long a towel will actually last. I gave away the other two years ago.

The blue quilt with the cats on it was a present for my fifth birthday in 1964. I have used it regularly through most of the years since and it too is very worn. When I first got it I thought it was really special because one of the cats in each of the baskets was so like my own cat Smokey. Such sweet and simple times.

The big book is a dictionary that I bought (with money I saved over quite a time), again in 1971. I think you got them through The Advertiser, a special offer, for something like $6.95! It’s the only proper dictionary I’ve ever had, and I like it a lot. It got weed on once by a cat I had, so some of the pages are a bit stained and not quite flat, and there are lots of pressed flower petals and leaves in various of the pages reminding me of special people and times.

I’ve lots of other things that have come to me through other people (ie more than one owner) which I may do a post on in the future, but in the meantime, here’s to the humble everyday things that come with us through life, useful, unassuming, part of the journey.

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Marx on Sunday

 

A while back (in fact last year) I went to a gathering of the gloriously named Australian Centre for Convivial Backyard Civilisation, which is one of Peter Willis’s gigs. I met Peter a couple of years ago when he, Fiona and I presented at the Community Centres’ conference. I have been to quite a few of the gatherings of the group now and have really enjoyed meeting people and having a chance to listen and share ideas. The group, as well as their regular conversational format, have occasional speakers on topics of interest. Their first guest, a guy called Jack Cross, who has been an educator of various kinds for many years, came that Sunday over a year ago and spoke about Marx and his relevance to the current world. It was just fascinating.

It’s intriguing how demonised Marx seems to be now – since end of the Soviet era, and of the communist regimes in eastern Europe, there has been a real aversion to analysing capitalism, almost at all, and certainly not from Marxist perspectives. Jack’s position was that while the enactment of some Marxist ideas has not worked so well, the insights that Marx provided to the ways capitalism operates are really useful still. He (Marx) was a very powerful and insightful thinker, and Jack was in turn a very clear and insightful presenter.

I wrote the first draft of this piece for the blog soon after the presentation, but didn’t finish it. However I have recently come across Jack’s notes given out on the day, and reading them through, was reminded of what a great session it was. Here is just a taster “He [Marx] believed that individually and as a species we create ourselves (especially our own consciousness) by acting upon (or reacting to) our environment and seeing ourselves reflected back in the product. In this way we discover our enormous innate potentials”. This has me thinking about the importance of action, of doing things to create the world we want to live in and the lives we want to live. He also talked about Marx’s idea that the way a society produces goods is highly influenced by the technology available to it, and that if you change the technology that is used, then “bit by bit you will change the social relationships, the ideas and almost everything else”. As we move further and further into a digital, computer based world, does this not ring true? I can’t have this blog relationship with anyone who reads this without the technology to allow it just for one example.

Anyway, I could rave on, but no doubt I would not do the topic much justice. Quite apart from the subject matter though, another aspect of the day is really worthy of note – and that is how marvellous it is to get together with others to explore ideas and have a yarn about how the world works. And how excellent that this can happen, and does, at least sometimes, outside of formal schools, with interested individuals, morning tea, and (in this case) older folk (like Jack and Peter) who are engaged, experienced and who have spent lots of time themselves exploring ideas, thinking and acting in the world.

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Losses (with special appearances by John Howard the actor)

It’s been a grim time for losses at the ABC – my broadcast media of choice. Two of my favourite people have died recently and I, like many other people, am sad and missing them. Firstly and very unexpectedly, John Clarke died last month. He was so funny and clever and warm. I loved the series he wrote and appeared in before the Olympics in Sydney, called “The Games” (ABC is repeating it at the moment). At the time John Howard was PM and was studiously not apologising for the treatment of Aboriginal people through the course of (white) Australian history. The Games’ take on this, and the speech that was made by John Howard the actor in the program were just amazing to hear at the time (the thrill of it, the conversations it provoked for days following), and still today…

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Mark Colvin died after long years of ill-health. He was a journalist and hosted the current affairs program PM on the radio each night. I would often hear the latter part of the show when I was driving home from work. He had a very distinctive voice, and style of presentation, and was renowned for his very astute journalism. I liked all that too, but it is his voice that I will miss the most.

He had really poor health for many years after contracting a miserable and rare illness when he was a foreign correspondent in Rwanda in 1994. He was on kidney dialysis for years, and eventually had a transplant – quite a story in its own right and one that was turned into a play called ‘Mark Colvin’s Kidney’ – with John Howard (of Sorry speech fame) playing him.

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Mark Colvin with John Howard playing Mark Colvin…

 

Mark Colvin young

MC when young, pre-illness…

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and in more recent times

There are heaps of tributes to him on the internet – ABC website, both tv and radio have lots – he had a pretty good attitude to his life, and wrote the following in his memoir, published last year:

“So, like the legendary lost dog on the poster — three legs, blind in one eye, missing right ear, tail broken, recently castrated, answers to the name of Lucky — I feel that despite near-death experiences and chronic illness, I have had what AB Facey famously called A Fortunate Life.” This brings me back to another of my favourite John Clarke clips, from his early days – a song called “We don’t know how lucky we are”, about his home country of New Zealand, but really about life in many ways – the amazingness of it, and sometimes its good fortune. Somehow death can be such a reminder of the richness of life, its beauty and fleetingness – it’s good to remember.

 

 

 

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Art of the body

I went to a really interesting exhibition this week at Adelaide Central School of Art. It featured the work of two women, Deb Prior, whose work I have seen previously (I have one of her pieces actually) and Cheryl Hutchens. It was a really interesting and thought provoking night. Each artist took, I think, a long time to create the various works – and those repetitive ‘womanly’ arts/crafts of sewing, knitting, beading featured strongly. The primary theme was the body – not the body beautiful, but the messy, odd, unpredictable, quirky, very human body, the one we actually live in – that is also beautiful, but not in obvious ways. Deb’s work also incorporates domestic textiles – blankets that have had a long life for example, and pillows that are stained from use – sweat marks are outlined and embroidered to highlight rather than hide. I found it all intriguing and a bit unsettling – their explorations seemed to me to bring them to a point of understanding or acceptance that is unusual and hard to grasp – like poetry can be.

One piece that I really liked was an old woollen blanket that had small round holes cut into the fabric at regular intervals. The circles were then sewn back in a different order, so that the colours and pattern of the original blanket were all mixed up. Apparently the piece was made thinking of Deb’s grandmother, who had (or has) dementia – the holes in memory that mean that her life is all there, but mixed up and sometimes forgotten. The renewed blanket is then displayed flowing out of a blanket decorated pelvis – like a metaphor for birth or blood or the flow of life maybe. I’m not sure I’m doing it justice, but it was lovely – you’ll get the idea a bit from the photos (click to enlarge). I’ve also included some photos of a few of the other works at the exhibition – just a taster…

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Coming Home

On Anzac Day this year, which was mid-week, I did something a bit different. Instead of going up and down to Auburn (and dad wasn’t coming down this year) I stayed in town, and caught up with Nicky (who has appeared in these pages many times as a regular and valued responder, as well as sometimes in posts ). In the afternoon we went into the city to the launch of a film called Coming Home, at the Mercury Cinema. It was made by some young indigenous film-makers, and had a theme appropriate to the day. It was about a two of the many Aboriginal men (21 in total) from Raukkan (Point McLeay mission at the time) on Lake Alexandrina who went off to World War 1. They were brothers, Cyril and Rufus Rigney, and they both died in the Western front in 1917; Rufus is buried at in a war graves cemetery in Belgium, Cyril doesn’t have a known grave, but his name is on the memorial at Ypres. It was a short film but very moving, with an interview with a relative of the dead boys, Verna Koolmatrie, telling of how she and others from Raukkan went to Europe to find the memorials to the boys and how a French man was using found metal from the war – bullets and schrapnel of various kinds that still turns up in local fields – to melt down and re-form into little figures representing soldiers who died, to give to family members. For Verna, having these small figurines was a way of bringing the boys back home, and meant a lot.

It was a great afternoon, with discussion with the film-makers after the film showing, and a terrific example of community-based art work. I did a fairly poor job of taking pictures, but have snaffled some off the internet so you can get a bit of a sense of the day, and some of the people involved, through the shots below. It was a great tribute to those long gone young men, and a wonderful opportunity to develop film-making skills while doing a meaningful and positive project.

 

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