The Magic of Radio Ceylon

This morning I opened my emails to find another reminder from Spotify and soon after read Paesansunplugged (Punam) contribution to Napowrimo with the prompt ‘Forgotten Technology’.

The prompt took me back to the days of radio of my early childhood, when the only English music was available on Radio Ceylon  (now Sri Lanka).

As we waited in a hushed home the radio came alive, twice a day, morning and night.  Our lives revolved around that small box especially in teenage years, when after the BBC News, it was love requests for an hour with Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Peter, Paul and Mary.

But in the years before this, my father would tune the dial and navigate the crackle until he found Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw and with Begin the Beguine in his soul and invisible partner in arms, he’d sweep her across the floor in that imaginary ballroom land.

They would duck and dive as one, he then waited a moment, back arched, perfectly still
for her dress to stop swirling and as I caught my breath, he twirled his partner again
just to see my eyes sparkle when I smiled.

My father’s step was light as he went through the dance genres without missing a beat, and lightest when in his world he was Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, dancer extraordinaire, but to a little girl who adored him, he was always her incomparable daddy.

I miss him.

a dawn bird

A glimpse of me, the bride …

Dr T and I were living together before we decided to married.  Having lived overseas for several years I just assumed it would be a Western style wedding.  I bought dozens of bridal magazines and set about planning my dress.  Dr T did not comment on any of this.  One day curled up in a chair I absentmindedly asked him what kind of dress did he think I should get.  It was like he was waiting for that question.  His response was immediate.  A sari!  It was not what I expected from my Anglo Canadian partner.  I had worn a sari only once before.  It was on a special birthday and my mother was in Perth to help me wear the hot pink and turquoise silk sari.  I didn’t know it at the time, but he was completely smitten seeing me in one.  He was even more smitten that the sari could be unravelled in one swift movement.  I can be quite oblivious to the obvious sometimes!

Now I’m not sure if you know much about saris.  There are many, many styles worn in different parts of India.  In my part of world (central India), a sari is 6.5 yards long, worn with pleats in the front and a shawl like drape over the left shoulder.  A woman wears a skirt underneath into which the sari is tucked into.  She wears a blouse that reaches to about the last rib.  The belly area is exposed (abs in one’s youth was a bonus!).  In my mother’s day, underwear was optional!  The whole package was Dr T’s dream come true.

So sari it was.

We lived in the UK for several months before getting married as Dr T was on sabbatical there.  I stopped off in India, my only visit in decades as I wanted to buy a sari from my home town.  In those days shopping for saris was an experience like no other.  My  mother and entourage were ushered into an air conditioned room, the salesman was seated on a carpeted floor, a man on the mezzanine level threw down bolts of saris, the silks in the brightest of colours, flying through the air.  Indian brides (non-Christian brides) wear bright colours on their wedding day but Christian brides opt for cream with a coloured border.  Seated in the middle of a sea of rainbows, I could not make up my mind!  Everything I looked at was gorgeous and I bought half a dozen or so.  For my wedding, I ended up liking the border of one sari but the heavy cream silk of another was outrageously luxurious and I had to have that, too.  The salesman had known me when I was a child.  He was thrilled I had come from Australia and wanted to make the sale on the condition I sent him a picture of me in the sari, so he could put it in the shop window.  He offered to remove the border I liked and transfer it on the silk I loved.  I couldn’t have been a happier bride.  And … Dr T was an even happier groom.

On reflection it was ironic that I wore such an opulent outfit.  The wedding could not have been more low key.  We got married in the front yard under the gum tree on a Saturday.  The minister was from the Salvation Army and completing his Masters and known to Dr T from university.  We had 12 guests, including us, and enjoyed a BBQ after the brief ceremony.  We did have Handel’s music being played softly in the background that signalled celebration to anyone within ear shot.  We had an enormous wedding cake that Dr T and I demolished over the year.  As we exchanged our vows our neighbours came home from grocery shopping and as they unloaded their car, they tried desperately to keep their little children quiet and not disturb us.  We went back to work on Monday, without fan fare.

Our relationship lasted over 21 years.  I have known him for over 40, and most of those years have been amicable post divorce.  I am in a good place.  I know he is too.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

In response to Word of the Day Challenge – Opulent

When one helps another ….

The run up to the end of the financial year is always busy for people like me.  I am booked solid until the end of June.  I come home to swap suitcases.  I’ve had to transfer all my indoor plants to the patio where the gardener can water them in my absence.  Nothing upsets me more in the home than to see a plant wilt from lack of water.  In my world, it is an egregious act of neglect.  Perhaps this strong emotion stems from my cultural values, when someone visits your home, offer them the best hospitality.

As a child I can remember my aunt’s university friend who visited India.  She would walk around the field behind our home and take photographs of the nomads and cattle.  Beyond a rocky ridge was more housing but it was in the distance and even though my best friend lived there, I was not allowed to walk there on my own.  At dusk we could not find our American friend.  My parents and aunt grew increasingly anxious.  People spread out in different directions looking for her.  The ridge was dangerous.  It was regularly blasted for building purposes and left behind deep pools after monsoon rains.  I recall a neighbour drowning in one of the pools, after she slipped washing her feet.  Then word came someone had found our visitor.  We went to where she was.  She was seated on the ground, coughing from dung fire, enjoying a cup of sweet tea and a piece of dry roti with her delighted hosts.  She refused to leave until she had enjoyed her moment with that family.  The joy in the interaction between this woman and the family is a moment that stays with me.  They did not have much, but they gave generously.thumb_IMG_5037_1024.jpg
I had a pretty packed day yesterday and found it difficult to sleep in.  I woke to a beautiful morning in Bunbury and watched sunrise from my hotel balcony.thumb_IMG_5033_1024.jpg
I had an hour long drive into forest areas so I just stayed where I was, watching the ocean  The waves were fearsome and I could hear them crash from where I was.  Soon it was time to shift gears and head into timber country.thumb_IMG_5041_1024.jpg
I have driven through this tiny town many times.  I love buying fruit and vegetables here.  All locally produced and have watched staff rinse off the dirt from freshly picked vegetables before placing it on the shelf.  It’s that fresh!  This was the car park of the place I visited.  The local school has just 25 children who attend kindy to the year before high school.  Charming is too sophisticated a word for it!  I fell in love with the place instantly!thumb_IMG_5042_1024.jpg
I then had an appointment with the mother.  She told me she’s “just down the road” out of town.  It was a long few kms of unsealed road!  I thought I was in an enchanted forest.  The drive got darker and darker with towering trees on either side.  I was so relieved to spot her standing at the end of a long driveway.  My car skidded and crunched it’s way to the homestead.  She had sent me a text earlier in the day saying it was Tuesday, nothing would be open in town so she had made lunch for me.  She offered me lunch including fresh fruit from her orchard.  We talked for hours.  Her parting words of thanks is something that will stay with me.  I remembered my mother’s constant mantra, “give like you have plenty to share”.  This, too, is hospitality.

As I drove away I had another 3.5 hours drive before I got home.  A very long day but I felt energised.  I had lived a day that reflects one of my favourite proverbs, German I believe it is, “When one helps another, both are stronger”.

I’m headed out again … more later.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

In response to Word of the Day Challenge:  Hospitality

So shall you reap …

There was a time in my life when I was impatient for the weekend.  Weekends were a time for cooking and baking.  I always enjoyed taking food or baked goods in to work for morning tea or meetings, but with frequent travel, this is no longer possible.  I know one day, I will again.

My retirement dream is to live somewhere in the South West of this State and bake cakes and supply them to the local cafe.  That is my Lotto dream!  (Oh! and a live in masseur as well!).458365_406422052703396_1493320481_o.jpgI made this special cake for my future daughter in law.  She had just started dating my son and we surprised her with a dinner for her 21st.  It was a chocolate cake layered with a hazelnut meringue, chocolate ganache and raspberries.  An original!467614_384877168191218_740109333_o.jpg
My daughter went through a phase where she loved cupcakes.  So I made this cupcake tower for her birthday.  Passionfruit/lime, chocolate, lemon curd, orange poppyseed.  They all went down a treat!468340_384877528191182_407982071_o.jpg
A colleague at work was turning 29.  We had a little boy’s themed morning tea for him.  He wanted me to bake a Thomas the Tank Engine cake.  Way too complex for me, so I created this little sweetheart instead.

As a child the themes of caring for children, cooking and playing doctor to my 17 dolls were strong.  It seems I did not have to wait too long.  The journey from childhood to adulthood was short, as is the journey back again.

Nothing much has changed in the interim.  I love being a mother.  I love cooking/baking for others.  And, I love what I do for a living.

The seeds were all sown when young.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

In response to RDP:  Wait

Picture this!


Built in the art deco style, this movie theatre was the heart of social life in my hometown for those who loved Hollywood movies.  My mother, of course, was an avid fan of the glitz and glamour.  My father adored Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  My mother had American pen pals who sent her packages of magazines, from memory, Photoplay and Silver Screen.  She would pour over them before her afternoon siesta.  She never parted with a single magazine.

Empire Talkies was also a place where many teens experienced their first kiss.  You knew who was on a date when you saw them choose the back row.  Upstairs was even more private with individual booths.  I can remember the twentysomethings avoiding the younger crowd’s gaze when coming down the stairs!  The movie would be shown all week.  Western cowboy movies were always a big hit, so was any movie with Elvis in it.

My sister was a huge fan of The Beatles.  When they came to India my parents had to keep close watch on her because they thought she would take off to try and meet them in the far north!  When the movie ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ was released she pleaded with the manager to give her one of the movie posters which she cherished.  She watched the movie all week for every session.  I think he only relented to get rid of her!

I, too, love movies but unlike my mother, I’m a fan of only a few Hollywood movies.  My favourite picture of all time is Babette’s Feast.  A movie of generosity of spirit.  I love it more each time I watch it.  Sitting on a blanket under stars watching movies with pizza and wine during the Perth Festival is a fond memory with a friend.  Days I would love to experience again.

The beautiful movie theatre no longer exists.  Built by a prominent Bollywood acting family considered ‘acting royalty’, it is a crumbled ruin.  It saddens me to know this.  Many a teenage love story would start with “Remember when we went to Empire ….”.  The building may have been crushed by time, hopefully, memories last longer.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

In response to Ragtag Daily Prompt:  Picture

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




Memory of a mother


It is almost impossible for me to see a rose and it not trigger a memory of my mother.  She loved them.  She often tucked a rosebud in her chignon.  I don’t recall vases of flowers indoors.  My mother preferred wearing them.

As June is a month of celebration in memory of my parents’ respective birth anniversary, I thought I’d share my mother’s advice.

Be hospitable to all those who grace your home
Share like you have plenty to give
Be generous in thought and the practice will be easy
Smile even when you are hurting
Revenge is best left off the menu
Work hard for yourself, harder for those less fortunate
Say your prayers every day
Being rude says more about you, than the issue
Always wear clean underwear
Always sleep on clean sheets
Never go to bed angry
Pure silk and pearls never go out of fashion
Immodesty is not sexy
Pay your own way
Be a good in-law
Friendship is precious

Oddly enough I was never close to my mother.  Although beloved by all who knew her, her gift to them was her warmth and accessibility.  The child in me found her unattainable.

Always her silent student, her values continue to resonate with me.  Perhaps, therein lies the legacy.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird