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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I am writing this in Mannum, beside the river, after spending a weekend here. It has been beautiful – restful, restoring, fun and just a real change. Kaye and Megan have been here for various parts of the weekend, and I am here by myself tonight, the last night. We also caught up with my dear old friend Colleen, who lives here. It has been wonderful to spend time with the pals, and in this lovely spot. I don’t get away often, and the river is amazing. There are heaps of birds – lots whose names I don’t know, but we have seen many purple swamp hens, some Eurasian coots, seagulls, a goose, some black ducks, some female wrens (more muted colouring than their bright blue male counterparts), galahs and magpies of course, and there’s more… We climbed steep hillsides (cliffs really), and have meandered down and up the street, calling in on second hand stores, cafes, the local Foodland, and walking through the river-side parks. Megan and I went over the river on the ferry today, and took a drive along the other side – the river is just lovely. I couldn’t help thinking about how wonderful it must have been when the Aboriginal people were the only inhabitants – it must have been really a slice of heaven. There are lots of reminders of Aboriginal presence here, in the past and now.

It has been a terrific time – I thoroughly recommend a weekend away, somewhere different, and a chance to recharge the batteries and deepen precious friendships. Here are some snaps (click to enlarge and excuse the poor lighting etc – you’ll get the drift!)…


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Botanical birthday

I have been a bit surprised at how my underlying preoccupations (that I don’t even notice really) seem to surface in this blog. I think I do posts about plants and flowers – roses, jacarandas, wisteria, strelitzias, bottlebrushes, autumn, spring, sunflowers etc, because I can’t think of anything else, but it happens so often that I must assume that I have an interest (although I have no talent at all as a gardener). Same with birds (though that should be a bit obvious with parrot feather as my ‘name’). I know we have had a bit of a run lately with nature, and here it is again this week, my birthday week, with an excursion to the botanic gardens today. It is such a beautiful place. I don’t go all that often – I don’t know why not, it’s sooo lovely. All the plants look so lush, and the design of the place is so interesting and beautiful, it is restoring, soothing, invigorating, restful, uplifting etc etc in a big way. It was terrific to catch up with some dear friends too, to walk and talk and eat cake. Wonderful.

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The Fall

And just so the leaves and trees don’t feel left out as I write about autumn, here are a few pictures of leaves, particularly the fall of them, and trees in all their loveliness…



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Technically autumn is over, but as is often the way, the trees and colours are still fantastic. I have been particularly struck by the orange, not of leaves so much as flowers and fruit – and not even oranges (it’s a bit early for the navels), but persimmons, in the case of the tree I saw, with its fruit guzzled and wrecked by birds.

Here are a few pictures…



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Hands across the Sand

This week, for the first time in ages, the blog has a guest contributor! It’s a real treat to hear from Nicky (a long time and much appreciated supporter of this blog), who has written about a wonderful event that happened a couple of weeks ago at Port Willunga. Thanks so much for writing it up Nicky – and for caring and acting in support of good things all over the place…


Elizabeth asked me if I’d write about this really lovely event at Pt Willunga, so here goes.

Hands Across the Sand is an annual event that started in the US after the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The idea is to gather and pledge to care for the marine environment and then hold hands in a line along your particular bit of shoreline, remembering how we are linked  by the oceans which connect us all around the world. You can find a link to their website here.

I’d been along a couple of times, once at Glenelg and once at Henley Beach, and when I moved to Pt Willunga I’d dreamed that we could do it here. How wonderful to find that a local group had arranged to do it here AND at Middleton on May 19th. Six other beachside communities in SA were also planning to gather, with a focus on stopping oil exploration and drilling in the Great Australian Bight. I found out more about the local group, The Wild South, and met up with them. They are a great group of younger women, connected with The Wilderness Society. You could find them on Facebook, like I did!

My previous involvement with Hands Across the Sand had been singing there with Rise Up Singing Adelaide. That group is such a positive force, mentioned here before.

Some of us have made some steps towards getting a similar group going down south, and this looked like just the opportunity. The Wild South group were keen and emails started flying. I’m involved in 2 singing groups now, including the Hot Gospel Groove who meet in McLarenVale. Friends  from there and from the lesbian network said they’d come. The wonderful Mace Jess offered to lead us with guitar and she and I met to make a plan.

The week was WET and we were prepared to be cold, but the Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny, with raindrops sparkling on the freshly washed leaves. What a great start! About 25 of us gathered in the shelter shed to warm up together and then we moved down to the old jetty where people were gathering.

We sang, Peter Davey read a couple of great poems, Thasly from The Wild South and Robyn Holtham, Deputy Mayor of Onkaparinga (who has also appeared here before) spoke, and shared the good news that Onkaparinga Council had voted to join with the EIGHT local councils in SA that are now calling for protection of the Great Australian Bight. Then we sang some more. If you follow Facebook this is a short video of the singing. Then we all joined hands along the shore, maybe 200 people, and had our picture taken.  It felt powerful and heartfelt and connected to the place we love.


(EB here. I have included a these smaller repeats of the photos above as you can click on them to enlarge, and then when you get to the enlarged photos, you can enlarge again by clicking on the size of the photos in the accompanying picture info. That may be clear as mud, but hopefully you will get it if you do it, and get a better sense of the great day that it obviously was!)

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21 Elizabeth Street(s)

When I first went to uni – studying social work all those years ago, I lived for a couple of years with my aunt and uncle, at 21 Elizabeth Street Blair Athol. Auntie Joan (dad’s sister), and Uncle Leo lived there for many years after moving to Adelaide from Peterborough. Uncle Leo worked for the railways all his working life.

I have been thinking about how much social class is expressed by where we live, our streets and suburbs perhaps more so than country towns, and today I went hunting for other 21 Elizabeth Streets around Adelaide. There are lots of roads with that name, so it’s quite a good one to choose. I didn’t go everywhere of course, and I may do another swing around in the future for another post, but here are three 21’s, another E Street which was very short, and one street in the city which was long enough but didn’t have the number courtesy of most of it’s buildings facing other roads or being large blocks with businesses on them.

The first I went to was in Torrensville – it’s a street with quite a few older houses, many of which haven’t been kept up particularly well. No 21 was on a corner block and had one end of it subdivided (as 21a). I think it was may have been built in the 1940’s.

Then I went back to Blair Athol. The place looks pretty much the same as it always has. It has a small front yard and a very large (and invisible from the photo) back yard. Long before social work studies (in the ’70’s), when we were children, we (my sister Jane and I) stayed with Auntie Joan and Uncle Leo for holidays. I remembered the neighbours and their children whom we played with, and the big willow tree next door and Aunt and Uncle’s massive walnut tree. Jane would dress up in A Joan’s stilettos and at night, in bed, we could hear traffic from the Main North Road – I still have a sense of that different night-time atmosphere and being homesick for mum and dad!

The house is in a plain and unadorned street – not much in the way of beautification and a sort of view at the end of the street looking down over other houses and factories to the west – it is an unassuming house in an unassuming suburb.


After I left Blair Athol I went across to Norwood, in the leafy east. Elizabeth St there is across The Parade from Norwood Oval, and is a very different story to the first two E Streets today. Beautiful trees all coming into their autumn colours, some quite imposing houses and some little quaint cottages. It has a much more salubrious feel to the other E streets today. Number 21 is a tiny cottage on a large block.

After I left Norwood I went through the city to Elizabeth St there. It is a street I walk through often – it’s not far from my favourite bookshop! The whole of the block which would contain no 21 contains businesses, large car parking areas, and big fences. There is the side fence of a childcare centre, a plumbing business, and this big fence (behind which who knows) in the spot that I imagine no 21 to be.


Fence, behind which who knows what, 21-ish Elizabeth St Adelaide

Then my final street, in Glenelg, not far from home. It was dark by this time, and not much to see – more car parks, the back of shops on Jetty Road, a French patisserie which I didn’t know was there, and up ahead the back door of The Grand Hotel, which is on the beachfront. Definitely not long enough to have a 21, but it’s an Elizabeth, so it’s got a photo!

(Another Elizabeth, Road this time rather than Street) is close to work and very familiar too. I will take a picture of no 21 if I can this coming week and add it in later… watch this space.

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Women (hold up half the sky)

As mentioned last week, I went to Katrine Hildyard’s International Women’s Day dinner a couple of weeks ago. It’s an annual event held away from IWD in March (which is a pretty hectic time of year in Adelaide), celebrating local women’s contributions to community life here. It has featured in this blog before. As usual it was a really enjoyable evening – lots of fun, music (from some young women attending Christies Beach High), and the presentations and acknowledgements of older and younger women doing really good things to keep local community life going – taking kids to footy, in the surf lifesaving club, Probus members, young women supporting family members who struggle with ill health, some being really good neighbours and more, more, more.

I went with a lovely woman, Margaret, whom I met many years ago. She has lived in the south for over 30 years, arriving here after leaving a bad marriage and isolation in a small country town, where she landed with her family from the UK prior to that. She has been a participant in community activities of all kinds for years, and in particular was a regular at Southern Women’s Health Service for a long time. In recent years she has been a volunteer with the Royal Society for the Blind and goes with the groups on outings and helps things run smoothly.

My most memorable connection with Margaret was the day she came into the Health Village where I worked with a neighbour of hers. This woman was in an abusive relationship of many many years standing – nearly 40. Margaret supported her to get help, and that help led to her leaving the relationship, getting a new place to live (with the help of the Housing Trust), and having 15 happy years living independently before she died. This quiet, unsung support was so important to this woman and is often crucial to people working through troubles and moving on to better lives.

These hidden and mostly unacknowledged contributions to the well-being of those around us are vital to a good life, and women are central to doing those deeds. It was terrific to be there celebrating with such fantastic folk.

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