A place of learning


This was my school.  It still is.

The building is over a hundred years ago.  It had no AC but the deep recesses of the verandahs kept the classrooms cool.  I came here as a little girl after attending kindergarten elsewhere and left a teenager, full of dreams.  My dreams seemed so impossible, they were best left unspoken, so I never shared them with friends or family.  I am still friends with my two best friends from school.  Despite the distance of decades, we picked up on social media like goodbye, was yesterday.

The space behind the roses was where morning assembly was held.  The Principal, a nun, would walk out on to the platform and silence descended on the few hundred children as she led the school hymn and The Lord’s Prayer.  I’m pretty sure there were more non-Catholics than Catholics in this school.  We prayed as one.  The Head Girl would then read out notices as we waited patiently in heat for this to finish.  We would then walk, grouped by class year, in a single line, to our respective classrooms and the day would begin.

My school learning was steeped in facts and figures.  It also had a strict moral code of do no harm to others.  I had teachers who are memorable for the dreams they had for their students.  I studied and played with students who had bigger dreams than me and were brave enough to voice them when given a platform.  And, when the dreams did not materialize, they are braver than me.  So my learning continues.

To the left of the picture was the school chapel.  I loved visiting it.  It sat in the middle of two main play areas and yet it was a cool sanctuary.  The pews were made of polished wood.  The floor, marble.  From memory, there was always a nun tending to something or the other at the altar that was covered with a crisp piece of white linen, trimmed with hand woven lace.  A young woman swabbed the chapel floor from altar to door and then started on wiping down the pews.  Her efforts kept the chapel immaculate.  I went to the chapel every single day for a few minutes.  I prayed here silently.  And in this place of resonance, my dreams boomed back at me.  And, so it will be.

I have not visited my birth country in decades.  But I visit the chapel every single morning.  I find it under sky.  In the Australian bush.  In the outback.  In a paddock.  On an empty back road.  By the sea.  Or river.  In a shell.  In a birdsong.  In people’s eyes.  In people’s words, spoken and written.  And today, in my backyard.  And, like the child I was, while in the chapel I dare to dream big.  The message is always the same.  And, so it will be.

Memories of school can be traumatic for some.  I know I have some that I would love to erase permanently.  But when balanced, I find some memorable moments outweigh others exponentially.

May you find a memory that takes you back to a place where you started becoming who you are today.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird






Box Man

We called him Box Man.  I had known him all my school years.  From memory, I think he visited the school once a week.  I recall his visits were more eagerly awaited during my high school years.  It was because of what he brought with him.

He came to the school with a large tin trunk balanced perfectly on the back of his bike.  He set up just in front of the school chapel.  During lunch and recess, there was always a steady stream of students and teachers that sought the silence of that domed space.  We would crowd around him chattering in excitement while he set up with a certain deliberate flourish.  He would admonish and set boundaries to step back.  He had some very special things to show us.  We would move barely an inch and with bated breath waited for that tin trunk to be opened.

Once opened it contained a panoply of bling.  Hair clips.  Bangles.  Ribbons.  Hair bands.  Trinket boxes, small and smaller.  We loved every single thing, the shinier, the better!  He would be lucky to make a sale or two each visit.  Everything was over priced for school girls.

One day one of my classmates was bolder than the rest.  She asked him why his prices were so high.  He flicked a scarf in front of his face and missed an annoying fly.  He took his time and then said, because his goods all came from England, with all the haughtiness he could muster.  Cheryl was not going to let him get away that easy.  She held up a trinket box upside down and finger on label said, “Can you read English?  It says, Made in India”.  He didn’t miss a beat and responded, “That one is discounted, because of the misprint!”

I can remember this incident like it happened yesterday!

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

An aunt, by any other name …

I’ve been waiting to share my memory of this aunt.  The time never seemed right.  But tonight seems an opportune time, as she was a teacher by profession and today being Teacher’s Day.

She was my mother’s oldest sister who came after two sons in a sibship of ten.  She was beautiful in youth, chiselled features, a twinkle in her eye, long dark hair draped over one shoulder.  She remained that way as she aged.

My aunt had a profound sense of responsibility for her siblings and cared for them like they were her children.  They, in turn, respected her authority.  She was an indulged daughter who was known by her nickname, Baby, by her parents, and later siblings that followed.  As the nieces and nephews came along, she asked us to call her ‘Baby Darling’.  Her reasoning was simple.  She never married and did not have anyone to call her darling.  We accepted this.

Her name tripped off our tongue with easy, “Baby Darling this …”, “Baby Darling that …”.  The memory of this makes the child in me smile.  She had a closet in her bedroom that she kept locked.  It was a treasure trove.  It was always overstocked with perfumes and chocolates, and we crowded around her for the treats she shared generously.  Despite all the beautiful bottles of perfume, I recall she had a strong preference for Tiger Balm for pain.  Imagined or real.

Unlike my mother, who was always immaculately groomed, my aunt spent her day in PJs and slippers.  Her reasoning, was simple.  She was home.  It was her castle where she was queen.  She could do what she liked.  If my mother objected and pleaded with her to dress for visitors, she would say, if they were offended, they could come back when she was dressed … which was never … and then follow this statement with a peal of laughter!  We loved her eccentricity.

She was fiercely protective of her siblings and the extended family.  She was the protector of all secrets.  As teenagers we confided in her with absolute trust.  Our secrets were safe in the vault of her heart.  She giggled like a young girl at our stories of teen love, then she would share little snippets of her love life.

There was a sadness in her life.  It made her eyes sparkle.  Oh! the sweet pain of forbidden, unattainable love, far from being a burden, made her glow from the inside. Tennyson’s words, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”, far from loss, was a triumph that glided her path.

As she walked with us step by step from childhood to teen years and beyond, little did she know, the children at her knee had learnt the best lesson about life.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

Spring, at last!


Today is the first day of spring in the Southern Hemisphere.  A time synonymous with memories of love and laughter.

When I was married, on this day, I could count on my husband giving me a bunch of flowers with a funny poem he had written.  This was our tradition, every year.  I’m not sure what I looked forward to more, the flowers or the corny poem.

The father of my children may be absent from my life but the memory of many happier times is inescapable, on the first day of spring.

I am also reminded each year at spring, even the infinitesimally small can push through gravel and clay, to bloom again.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird


A tender memory


I woke this morning feeling dehydrated and before my coffee, reached for the carton of coconut water.  It flooded me with memories.

It is impossible for me to see a beach or palm and not think of my childhood holidays in Bombay (now Mumbai).  Every summer we would look forward to the 19 hour train trip from the heart of India to the coast.  My parents had siblings living there.  We looked forward to being with aunts and uncles and cousins.  I had one favourite aunt who remains vivid in memory.  Still vibrant, she died young in her early 60s.

She was my mother’s younger sister.  The two were very close in a sibship of ten.  My mother often regaled us with her memories of childhood with great affection.  It was always my aunt leading the charge.  Like the time, as a pre-teen, she rolled up straw in a newspaper and attempted to smoke the giant cigarette she made.  Coughing and spluttering, she insisted my mother do the same.  She was the life of any party, the first to sing and dance without inhibition.  She was an athlete, an Olympian.  Her hair was thick and glossy, dark as a raven’s wing in flight.  She brushed it off her face with impatience in one hand and, in the days before it was acceptable in that society for a woman to smoke, a cigarette in the other.  She looked at propriety in the face, threw her head back and laughed at it.  I was mesmerised by her presence.  The world is a quieter place, by her absence.

I remember so much about her but it is the smaller details I remember more vividly.  She was a walking contradiction.  An elegant tomboy is the best description I can come up with.  Her home was styled so beautifully.  I think I developed a love for sculptures from her.  Her sense of fashion was amazing.  She wore bright colours with dare.  Silk saris in turquoise, hot pinks, emerald greens, draped effortlessly.  Despite being a mother of four, she was slender as a reed.

She lived on the first floor of a large, period house right on the beach.  In the monsoon season, the high tide reached the back door, bringing with it coconuts that fell from the palms in the backyard.

This morning I recalled the memory of tucking into the soft, sweet and gelatinous flesh of tender coconuts, still green on the outside.  There is nothing similar to describe it in taste and texture.  One experiences it.

Although she passed away many years ago, her loss is so intense, we rarely speak of it.  When we do, we smile through tears because she is forever young.  Forever irreverent.  Forever fun.  Forever loved.  Forever missed.

Now that’s one memorable legacy to leave behind.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird




Up, up and away!

I’m off again after being home for just over a day.  I’m looking forward to the warmth of the Midwest region of Carnarvon, our agricultural region, mostly fruit and vegetables.  Probably too early for mangoes at the moment, but one can only hope!

DSCN8303.jpgThis is the main street.  Yes, that’s it folks!  Finding a parking spot is always a cinch!DSCN9385I remember seeing this male zebra finch in the scrub while driving 80 km/hr.  My ability to see birds in unexpected places, still amazes me!  But like I’ve said before, if you look for it, you find it.DSCN8169.jpgThe skies here are awesome.  During a storm or …DSCN8315.jpgon a clear day, as Barbra sang, “you can see forever”.DSCN8345I found this outside the public toilets at Pelican Point, a favourite place for locals to do a bit of kite surfing.  It always makes me smile!

I have so many enjoyable memories of places I visit that I’m always happy to visit again.  My hobby of photography has taught me, enjoy and keep what brings joy … which brings me to my goal next month.

My goal is to wean myself off headlines about ‘world leaders’.  I no longer want to scratch my head and wonder how and why.  The exasperation this brings, I can live without.

As a child I remember we heard the news twice a day on what was then Radio Ceylon; the BBC World Service.  You could hear a pin drop during the news as my parents would insist on this.  Then we got the newspaper from the city.  It was still news when it arrived a day later.  I watched an elderly man in Esperance recently who was walking home from the corner shop, with a newspaper rolled up under his arm.  A rare sight I thought.  The habit of clicking news headlines is now in our fingertips, it would seem.  How quickly times have changed.

I want a simpler life.  Am I returning to where I started from?  If I am, that’s okay with me, because I came from a happy place, where I keep my memories.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird