The tradition of the Christmas pudding

One of the most enjoyable features of Christmas dinner in Australia has been the Christmas plum pudding. The first settlers to Australia brought its ritual and tradition. It was to be expected, of course, that my family whose ancestors came from the British Isles before 1840 would follow the ritual and tradition with much joy and enthusiasm. The reader will find an excellent description of the plum pudding and its cultural background on the most informative of the many websites on Jane Austen and her world:  The Christmas plum pudding and old English foodie tradition.

One of my earliest childhood memories is of my mother helping my grandmother prepare the Christmas pudding for Christmas dinner. It was pretty much as described on Jane Austen’s World website, including the stirring of the bowl.

That tradition has carried on. Until my mother passed away well into her nineties, she used to watch on as daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren stirred the pudding mixture.  An indispensable part of the ritual was the mixing in of thruppences, sixpences, shilling and two shilling pieces which my parents had kept after the cultural destructive introduction of dollars and cents in 1966. Those lucky enough to find pennies and shillings in their slice of plum pudding could exchange them for higher value but colourless cents.

The Christmas story according to St Luke, translated by Mgr Ronald Knox

One is not usually conscious when reading the Scriptures that there are many different translations. One simply reads the text endeavouring to follow the narration and understand the meaning. I must admit, though, that the style and language usage of what I am sometimes reading comes across as wooden, fractured and archaic without the grace of some ancient writing, all of which makes the meaning obscure. I have been in the habit of thinking myself lacking understanding rather than blame the text.

Some years ago I was reading some passages from the New Testament when I suddenly became aware that my mind had come on the text as a train rides on the perfect fit of the railway track. The language was my language and I was inside the narration. There was none of that woodenness or forced rigidity of language that I often experienced. I had no way of knowing which translation it was. Sometime later, I picked up the New Testament edition I had been given back in 1959 when starting secondary school. Upon reading I realised it was the same translation that had engaged me so naturally. It was Mgr Ronald Knox’s translation. Continue reading The Christmas story according to St Luke, translated by Mgr Ronald Knox

The slab and bark hut in colonial Australia

The slab and bark hut is a major feature of colonial Australia. My first ancestors, all from the British Isles, lived in rural New South Wales. The accommodation of my great-great-grandparents Wilson and Jones, about whom I write in FROM PRISON HULK TO THREE BEDROOM HOME  would have been a hut like this:

Slab and Bark Hut

There is much information about bark and slab huts. Interesting sites are here and here.

UPDATE: Me ‘n’ Pete will now cover years 1946-1953

By the time I reached 1954 in the second book of my family history I realised that I had too material for one book covering the years 1946-1958. Besides, the years 1946 to 1953 represented a neat self-contained phase in my life, the life of my family, and the social history of Australia. Australia was recovering from the war years, society was on the move, and American influence in all spheres of Australian life was increasing. There was also a shift or an increase in my consciousness of the world around me. For these reasons I decided to close the second book at the end of 1953, and prepare a third book covering the years 1954-1958. The third book will bring me up to January 1959 when I was on the point of starting high school.

Visiting Sydney’s department stores in the 1950s

A visit to Sydney’s department stores in the 1950s was a great day out, especially for kids around Christmas time. The toy departments with their array of toys at a time when kids received toys only on special occasions were entrancing. Sometimes there were visits of stars from kids movies. I remember one of the pirates from Disney’s Treasure Island (1950) was in the toy department of one department store one Christmas. I’ve forgotten which store but it was most likely Anthony Hordens & sons in George Street. And then there was lunch in the cafeteria, often a meat pie and chips. Part of the thrill of a visit to the city was the ride on the double decker bus. Kids rushed for the front seats upstairs.

As reminder of the number of department stores in Sydney, HERE is a link to a fascinating page about Sydney’s department stores for furniture and furnishings, 1890-1960.

Extensive revision of Part One of my family history

The reason I put back the publication of the second part of my family history, Me ‘n’ Pete – Recalling a Fifties Childhood, is that I have undertaken a revision of the first part, From Prison Hulk to Three Bedroom Home. The revision was necessary because in the meantime I had found a lot more information about both sides of my family (mother’s and father’s) and third cousin, Bob Wilson, had compiled all his research on the Wilson and Jones lines in several booklets. Some of that information was missing in the original edition. The revised edition will be around 15,000 words longer and will be ready for posting online in November 2014.

Writer … and still in the fifties