Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Cliffys, 2nd place

Robin Fitzherbert’s My Childhood Kitchen was a big hit with the judges for our inaugural Cliffy Awards, a short story writing competition in honour of the Diary’s founder, Cliff Green (pictured). We hope you enjoy it ~ the Diary team.

MY CHILDHOOD KITCHEN – by Robin Fitzherbert

It was blue and cream, all wood with a wooden plate rack on the wall over the sink. In the corner of the kitchen was a large brick fireplace where the old slow combustion stove used to be. Mum had removed the old stove because Grandpa nearly burned the house down a few times. He’d leave the furnace door open to get more heat, but being deaf he didn’t hear logs falling out onto the wooden floor, where they would smoulder for hours.

A new GE electric stove was installed under the window facing the side fence. It wasn’t the best place for a stove, but it was the only place available. The curtain near the stove was always charred along the bottom where Mum had been a bit careless with the cooking.

In winter, Mum did most of the cooking in a pressure cooker and the ceiling above the stove was splattered with stains as the pressure cooker exploded with regular ferocity. I was scared of the pressure cooker and when Mum was using it I tried not to go into the kitchen until the noise and spluttering died down. It occurred to me, many years later that Mum didn’t really understand quite how pressure cookers worked. I have never owned one as I’m still scared of them.

The other kitchen window faced up the front path and I loved this window because you could sit and watch the world go by. Our road was the main road and all cars, buses and delivery trucks in and out of Warrandyte going to and from the city passed by our house. My Grandpa bought this house specifically because the bus stopped just outside. As we didn’t have a car until 1955, it was necessary to have public transport handy.

Bill McCulloch was our postman and he rode a large white horse called Silver to deliver the mail. Sometimes he rode down the driveway and down the steps to the front porch before he blew his whistle. As this gigantic white horse loomed ever closer I hid under the blue laminex table, just in case he had a mind to bring the great thing into the house. Fear and fascination gripped me in equal measure.

Our laminex table was the hub of our kitchen. Everything was done on this table from preparing meals, dining, mincing left over cold roast meat, cutting sewing patterns, dressing wounds, playing cards, doing homework and anything else you could think of. Grandpa had bought the latest chrome chairs that didn’t actually have legs. The chrome was bent into an “S” shape and the chairs were very bouncy. My brother and I loved to rock back and forth on them, even though we weren’t supposed to. We spent many hours sitting at this table as we were not allowed to leave until our meal was finished – every last over pressure-cooked morsel.

The windows were hung with curtains that were thick enough to keep in the warmth in winter and the heat out in summer. The material had a cream background with a blue jug pattern and they were hung on big blue curtain rings over a wooden rod.

Mum and her friend Kath would sit on hot summer days, with curtains drawn against the heat, playing cards while I played on the floor. Through gaps at the edges of the curtains shafts of sunlight would strike the walls or the fridge and I marveled at the patterns they made. It was the most peaceful of times.

On the other wall at right angles to the stove was the sink with some bench space on either side. One bench was charred and black with a crater in the centre where the kettle had burned out more than once. High above the sink were built-in cupboards. They were so high they could only be reached (apart from the first shelf) by climbing on a chair and then onto the bench. My brother and I became mountain goats and no matter how much Mum tried to hide goodies in the top shelves, we always found them.

My brother had a real sweet tooth and maintains to this day that he was sweet deprived as a child. He would eat packets of jelly crystals. I don’t know why Mum bought them, as she never made any jelly. She didn’t approve of such “junk” food. They were probably for “just in case”. That was Mum’s usual reason for having anything that she considered out of the ordinary.

The Christmas when I was nearly 11, Mum bought a new fridge. This was not just an ordinary fridge. This fridge came with a Christmas hamper. A few weeks before Christmas the fridge arrived, and with it a large cardboard box, marked “Christmas Hamper”. What jubilation.

My brother and I gathered around Mum as she opened the box. She pulled out a tinned ham, a Christmas cake, biscuits, bottles of wine, lollies, soft drinks, toys and so much more that I cannot remember. But the thing I remember the most was the Christmas pudding in the blue earthenware bowl, which I still have – just the bowl, not the pudding.

Christmas puddings were fraught with angst in our house. Mum was a fair to good cook, but she couldn’t make Christmas pudding to save her life. It was the fault of that stupid bloody pressure cooker. The last Christmas pudding Mum ever attempted came out literally, hard as a rock. My brother was mortified because it was stuffed to the gunnels with threepences and sixpences.

However my brother came up with a creative solution that is now folklore in our family. The pudding was placed in the chook pen and he spent the next week sitting with the chooks, watching and waiting for the next coin to be revealed as the chooks diligently pecked away at it. My brother has always had patience when it comes to money.

Mum was pleased too as she never liked to waste good food.

Light therapy tackles Lyme

Less than six months ago, the Diary published an article on a cluster of Lyme disease patients in Warrandyte. Sufferers were at wits end, frustrated at the lack of support and indifference shown by the government, which still refuses to acknowledge the debilitating dis- ease even exists in Australia.

Andrew Barrett, Warrandyte’s colour and light healing expert, has been treating a Melbourne woman who is also afflicted with the disease. Using a machine called the PhotonWave, the style of therapy has had positive effects on patients suffering from Lyme disease as well as other ailments.

Colour light therapy uses coloured light on the body to create balance and flow, which helps the body heal itself. I was lucky enough to experience a session with Andrew as we spoke about the ancient style of healing. He explained how he had just returned from the International Light Association conference in Vienna where he had learned about using light therapy for heavy metal toxicity and immune mobilisation.

Andrew specialises in Syntronics, the process of shining selected light frequencies through the eyes, impacting key systems of the body. The light therapy session was incredibly relaxing and Andrew explained the colours and lights can be used to treat a whole range of ailments, not just physical pain, but also emotional pain and mental struggles from which people are looking for relief. The coloured light can also help with getting better rest or alternatively offer relief for those with low energy levels.

Set at the back of The Purple Dragon y in Warrandyte, the location was perfect with the scents of soaps and body oils yet another treat for the senses.

Andrew brought out two interesting looking instruments, the rst being the previously mentioned PhotonWave Rainbow Light Simulator, a new invention that has shown proven success in cases of chronic pain, ADHD, depression, heavy metal toxicity, dyslexia, skin conditions, eye diseases and allergies. This is the tool Andrew uses in his treatment of Lyme disease.

A difficult disease to treat with ongoing and chronic symptoms, the sufferer had tried many treatments to no avail until light therapy was suggested. Using the Klinghardt Protocol, a method of eliminating toxicity, Lyme disease sufferers are advised to attend 12 sessions over time to see results.

The second tool looked like a torch, with varying coloured disks that could be attached, before holding the different coloured lights over different zones of the body. I felt very relaxed after the session, a heavy but contented feeling, which I described to him as like floating on a dense flowerbed. It was hard to imagine anyone having trouble sleeping after a session like that.

As Andrew explained, the light therapy, while gentle and non-invasive, is designed to balance the physical, emotional and mental aspects of your wellbeing. Just some of the other issues Andrew can treat include migraines, depression, MS, chronic fatigue and skin dis- orders, while the therapy supports the functioning of bodily processes of the immune system, the lymphatic system and the endocrine system.

Many of his clients have tried everything else and have found the colour light therapy to be the only thing to have worked in their recovery and healing.

Andrew is offering a special of $75 for the first consultation and $60 thereafter and urges those living with Lyme disease to get in touch.

Young gun can really motor

Most two-year-old children struggle to run, let alone get up on a bike. But this wasn’t the case for Broc Taylor.

Now aged eight, Broc began his motorbike journey with a dummy in his mouth and is now competing at national level.

Sponsored by Peter Stevens Motorcycles of Ringwood, Broc has come on in leaps and bounds, largely due to the support from father Mick and coach Joe Stevens. Competing in Victorian titles throughout the year and nationals in September, Mick believes the sky is the limit for Broc.

“My older boy rides as well, so for Broc the bike was just there, we slapped the training wheels on it and off he went,” Mick says.

This is his second year of competition and he’s had mixed results in the Vics. But the class he’s racing in is for kids up to 12 years old and if he gets a good start he’s good enough for the top 10.”

Broc rides two different bikes, both 65 and 50cc classes, and trains on many different styles of track, including clay, gravel and sand. The potential for Broc is obviously high and coach Joe Stevens has a key role to play in helping him reach it.

“I run a race team and coach a program out of Peter Stevens. My company is M.A.D (moto-x athlete development), it’s a coaching pro- gram for the sport, and through the store we have a support program for kids like Broc we run coaching and racing and the store provides the gear and the bikes,” Joe says.

“We do weekly training sessions across different tracks in the South East, we were in Mildura last weekend to race, basically we just have to follow the races as they come. He’s winning at club level already, but obviously the level jumps when it gets to nationals.”

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Broc was destined to become a star on a bike; it’s in his blood, after all. Mick was a keen rider throughout his childhood and Broc’s brother was also quick to take to motorbikes as well.

Broc is obviously going places, but for now it can still be about the simple pleasures.

“I love jumping because it’s a lot of fun and the hardest bit is to ride fast through muddy places. I want to be a pro,” Broc says.

When asked if he was scared at all about being on the bike, Broc’s answer was an emphatic “no” and even though he’s only eight, you can’t help but believe it.

Times are changing

‘There’s never been a more exciting time….’ is an oft-repeated quote by the current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. With a double dissolution election looming and a very long election campaign ahead, perhaps not many would agree with him.

While much can be put down to hindsight and history, for me the most exciting time of change was back in the 1970s. The ‘60s had seen major shifts in attitudes overseas and it seemed by 1970 that Australia too, with its increased prosperity and changes in migration, was on the cusp of a transformation.

Think 1970. Warrandyte was a small rural township out on the north eastern edge of Melbourne. The suburbs had not yet reached out to encircle our village and it was surrounded by orchards and open space. The Warrandyte Diary had commenced with a four page black and white edition, Potters Cottage had opened its new restaurant to complement its pottery gallery, a State Park was proposed but not formalised, the Warrandyte Environment League was active, and the post office still operated from the old post office in Yarra Street.

Some proposed subdivisions were proving controversial but more houses were being built and young families were moving into the town. Think Australia still involved in the Vietnam War with large demonstrations held in opposition to the war and conscription. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer was published in 1970. The emergence of the Women’s Liberation Movement and the Women’s Electoral Lobby meant the role and treatment of women in Australia was coming under increasing debate. For many women this was heady stuff.

At that time Australia had been governed by a Liberal Government for 23 years, firstly with Sir Robert Menzies for 16 years from 1944-1966, then with Harold Holt, John Gorton and Billy McMahon in quick succession. Meanwhile, Victoria had been ruled by Sir Henry Bolte’s Liberals for 15 years. However, views were shifting in Australia and there was a mood afoot for political, economic and social change in both areas of government.

Forward to 1972 and the It’s Time Labor campaign. Labor opposition leader Gough Whitlam put forward a socially progressive program of measures. The campaign was borne along with Gough’s much vaunted oratory as well as the advertisements and It’s Time jingle. Celebrities of the day singing in the advert included Bert Newton, Graham Kennedy, Bobby Limb, Jackie Weaver and Little Pattie. It proved to be a winner; it didn’t mention Labor or Gough Whitlam but suited the mood of the moment.

There was a real fizz and buzz around the campaign.

Warrandyte was, at that time, included in the Federal seat of Casey held by the Liberals. It was the most marginal in the country so received a great deal of attention being considered a real litmus test for the election. Unlike today’s broad-based media political campaigns and social media, then it was local meetings and face-to-face contact to ensure voters met the candidates.

Warrandyte had an active branch of the Labor Party with Fred Davis (who later stood (unsuccessfully) as a Labour candidate in the state election of 1976) encouraging locals to attend some meetings.

Gough Whitlam received a rock star welcome at a Ringwood meeting and it was an exhilarating experience. Artist Clifton Pugh was an active Labor supporter and held a meeting in his house at Cottlesbridge where his pet wombat provided an entertaining diversion rubbing his back against one of the pew seats.

At the election in December 1972, the Whitlam Labor Government was swept into power with its reformist agenda. The pace of change was amazing and its many achievements included ending conscription, supporting a wide range of women’s issues, introducing universal health care and free university education and many more.

It has often been said it tried to do too much too quickly. It ran foul of a hostile Senate and eventually in 1974 called a double dissolution election, which it won. But it was plagued by a number of scandals and a deteriorating economy and following further hostile Senate action was dismissed by the Governor-General in November 1975 and then subsequently defeated at the next election.

There can, however, be little doubt that it changed the face of Australia at the time.

Meantime, also in 1972 in Victoria, the long Liberal government of Sir Henry Bolte drew to a close with his retirement. He was replaced by Rupert Hamer (later Sir) who won the state election in 1973 with the slogan ‘Hamer Makes it Happen’ and a socially progressive agenda to modernise and liberalise government in Victoria. It was another rewarding and productive time. He was the first premier to establish an Arts ministry.

His commitment to the environment led to the declaration of Warrandyte State Park, protection of the Yarra River and the Green Wedge concept. His government strengthened environmental protection laws, abolished the death penalty, decriminalised abortion and homosexuality, and introduced anti-discrimination laws amongst many others. He was personally both environmentally aware and supportive of the arts and remained in power until 1981. His legacy remains today through many of his environmental and art initiatives.

It is hard to encapsulate the profound transformation these two governments, one Labor and one Liberal, achieved, and the effect they had on Warrandyte as well as on individuals. For me at the time, the protection of the environment and the changes to women’s roles were the most important personally. Since then, though, it has become apparent just how transformative the changes were, and how following governments and the community generally have continued to benefit from those achievements. Of course everyone will have a different take on ‘there’s never been a more exciting time…..’ However, Australia does appear once again to be standing on the brink of change with a looming Federal double dis- solution election and two ‘newbies’ who have not yet faced an election as leaders.

They face enormous challenges such as climate change, increasing refugee numbers and greater globalization, and in an ever-changing world. It is to be hoped that perhaps someone in 40 years time will look back at this election as one of those that became a transforming force for good. But then history and hindsight can be a wonderful thing …

Meet our Von Trapps

WARRANDYTE youngsters Bronte and Kayla Muir are doing their hometown proud after being cast in the Melbourne revival production of The Sound of Music.

Bronte (13) and Kayla (8) beat out over 1000 other Australian child performers in their auditions to snag the roles of Louisa and Marta Von Trapp, two of the most coveted roles in the musical.

But the Muir girls are collected and composed when talking about the audition process, making it sound like a walk in the park.

“There were 1000 kids and they teach you songs and you sing the songs. And then you either get a call back or get kicked out. So then we learned some dancing and then there were more call backs, and more call backs and more singing…but it was really fun,” Bronte told the Diary.

“I was excited. They make it a really fun environment. They prep you up and they play games with you before you go into the room. They make it really fun and relaxed.”

At 13, Bronte is already a seasoned performer having being cast in the musical Annie! at the Regent Theatre in 2012. She says that after a while you “start to miss being up on stage”.

“Annie went for about four months, and after Annie finished it was really sad because we had made a family. My cast still catches up, which is really nice. But you miss being back on the stage and all that.”

The sisters are looking forward to performing at the Regent Theatre together, which they think is a “really cool” venue and will be a part of rotating child cast during the shows run, as to not miss out on their schooling opportunities.

As for their characters, Bronte and Kayla are excited to be playing Von Trapp sisters and getting to explore each characters individual personality on stage.

“Marta loves pink like me, and she’s really nice,” Kayla says, while Bronte is excited to explore Louisa’s “cheeky” side.

“Louisa is really cheeky. In the movie, she’s the one who puts all the toads in Maria’s bed. She’s the jokester and she likes to play tricks on people.

“And my favourite song is The Lonely Goatherd, it’s the one where they’re yodelling. It’s really fun to sing.”

The sisters are ambitious and have long and interesting careers in the performing arts ahead of them. They’re gaining experience and skill in a highly competitive industry that will certainly pay off in the years to come.

But at the moment, what’s most important to the girls in the friendships they’re making and the fun experiences they’re sharing.

“I think it’s going to be really cool, because we’re playing a big family with lots of brothers and sisters … so it’s going to be really fun having other brothers and sisters and dancing with them on stage.”

The Sound of Music is playing at the Regent Theatre from May 13. Tickets are now available from soundofmusictour.com.au