Saturday, 27 September 2014

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Mountains and Matisse

Unlike our first trip to Nice we didn't see as many sights but lived more like locals, going for a run (Bill ran 90% of days, I did about 30%), fetching groceries, cooking at home.

We did do two tourist trips, one to see the mountains on a train trip between Nice and Digne. It was a little silly, really, travelling for 3 hours to have lunch and then return. 

An enviable vegetable patch.

Having lived in Salt Lake City I wasn't as taken with the scenery as Bill. 

And had I Googled before and seen all these train wreck photos I probably wouldn't have gone at all! But there are some mountain pictures in there too in case you're interested.  

The patio eating area. Only one train per day between Nice & Digne, so maybe not as strange to live on the railway as one might think.

I liked the little train stations, some of which were residential with their own vegetable plots, chicken houses and laundry lines. 

Le Var River
Another day we went to the Matisse Museum, which amazingly was free for visitors from England! 

A large, well-used park by the Matisse museum in Nice.

I'm not a huge fan of the work for which Matisse seems most famous - his Odalisque pictures. There had been an article in a Sunday magazine about his paper cut outs period where he employed young girls to place the bits he cut out on large posters. Not excited about those either.  However, some of his line drawings are stunning in their simplicity.  Some of his last work was to decorate the Rosary Chapel at Vence and there is a large sketch of a robed man that was also lovely in its simplicity.

Bill pointed out a painting of Christ's body after the crucifixion, done in the classical style. I can't find a copy of it, though there is a pale skeletal version, but that's not at all like the one I saw. This one painted Christ as a muscular, tanned man and in spite of all the wounds and that I don't much like religious art, this was beautiful, in dark rich colours. Even Picasso knew how to paint in this style, so I gather it was the starting point of most painters whatever they chose to do later.

However, my soul is moved by textiles first and always. There was a very simple blue and gold robe, featured in some painting, that Bill and I spent 20 minutes trying to figure how it was woven and then constructed. We never really worked it out. The robe looked as though a rectangular piece started at the waist in front, went over the head and ended at the waist in the back, with a hole for the neck. The side seams only allowed a space sufficient for the hands. The waist seam attached an equally rectangular skirt. What was remarkable was the print that had been woven or manipulated to decorate the shoulders, the waist and the hem. But this was just a passing interest for me.

My very favourite thing in the whole museum was an enormous piece of needlework, about 10' tall and probably about that wide or more. I remember three large arches within a rectangular frame of fabric. The same motif of flower covered the whole thing, the frame being applique and solid but the arches being shaped cut outs. Each petal shaped hole was no larger than the circle I can make with my finger and thumb - and each and every hole was bound with beige fabric. It looked to be a simple muslin fabric that had been hand dyed in blue and red but for the beige; in places the blue was more green and perhaps it was all green originally. 

It was so old - much patched in places - it was hard to tell. Whatever it once was it was still to me a glorious creation of patience and skill. I'm sad that the only picture I can find is from a book, shared on this blog. I'm definitely going to have to come back to this blog and do some browsing! In fact, I think it is this wall hanging on the cover of the book!

That's the hanging in his studio window, this sort of piece is made from jute and it's called a haiti, according to another blog.

Isn't it beautiful?

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Another Tote for Nice

I had just enough time between our invitation to Nice and our flight to make the tote bag I'd long intended to make for Marie. I'd taken away a small piece of a pink striped apron, that Ben was going to use as a rag, which this project in mind. But of course come the day I couldn't find it. 

I had a list of colours in mind for Marie, but strangely this bag seemed to have a mind of its own and turned out quite a bit darker and with more tactile fabrics than I'd initially envisioned. Or perhaps I just didn't have enough of the other colours and textiles. 

In any case, we left this, a book about being environmentally friendly which had amused me - they are both very interested in environmental issues, some coasters and a Yorkshire/Tour de France hat for Ben and Marie. We didn't get to see Ben and Marie this time, EasyJet's flights made us leave the day before their return.

These coaster are great fun to make! I thought of these as 'southwest' (as in US) colours.

I'm told Ben thought his book a bit silly (the British humour no doubt) but had already learned some things from it and Marie loved her bag. Mission accomplished!

The blue bit is from some fabric I took for an applique project that didn't happen. A paper bread bag cut into a long strip and made into a 'pom pom bow' as above.

Three strips of plastic bag braided for the 'ribbon'; a longer strip made into a 'pom pom bow'. Reminds me of lettuce, but green seemed an appropriate colour for a book called Shades of Green, eh?

They also liked the wrapping. I'd used my usual brown paper to wrap all but the hat (which Bill had already packed). I'd intended to take either some ribbon or some tissue pom poms (great because you can make them up and leave flat in the suitcase until ready to fluff up and put on the package), but I'd run out of time. I could have bought something but you know that's not how I roll, so instead I raided their stash of plastic and paper bags. I thought they wouldn't mind, it being an environmentally friendly thing to do and all.


And BTW, Happy Birthday to my friend Ruby, my cousin Clay and my lovely sister-in-law Jane! 21 Sep must be a most auspicious date!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Nice Again!

We were invited back to cat sit in Nice again this year. 

The 'grosse' ginger cat is Lily, Marie's first cat. Lily has a lovely trilling voice, is very affectionate and eats non-stop.

The weather was cooler and it rained a few times, saving us the chore of hauling buckets of water down two flights to aloe vera plants left by a deceased old lady. They are planted in flower beds leading down to the gated parking area but Marie claims responsibility for them.

Marie's role seems to be to adopt feline and vegetative orphans in their apartment building.

This lovely lady is called Scratch, the French term for Velcro. She did in fact lose two claws in the fleece cover of the couch during our stay. We're told she pushed her way into Marie's household last year, insisting on being adopted. Scratch is very affectionate but last year was fighting Lily every night; she is now definitely the Top Cat in that flat.

Perhaps this was why we were able to pick up and leave keys with kindly French ladies on other floors; Marie is no doubt known throughout in the building.

This is Fifi, the newest member of the family. She looks very like Scratch - a lot of the outdoor cats look similarly - except she has no ginger on her back. She gets different food and seemed to squawk rather than meow to let us know she was ready to be fed. Her voice made me think 'whiskey and cigarettes.'.

This time we were there for 10 days, much easier than three weeks. Unlike last year, we lived more like locals. There was only one tourist-y thing we did, to visit the Matisse museum. Oh, I lie, we did a scenic train journey as well.

Fifi is a master at hiding...

Having taken the tram for the first time I discovered a whole different shopping area, the one with the luxury brand names, the big shopping mall that is open in August, unlike the small businesses last year where I had hoped to buy shoes and fabric.

If there is another invitation next year I will enjoy window shopping in that area no doubt. Also, my small shoe size (5.5 US, 3 UK, 36 EU) is more likely to be stocked in European shops than British.

There was a third cat this time, adopted after a death. They hadn't decided on a name Fifi or Fidele, but we called her Fifi - when we finally found her. It was three days before we spotted her streaking across the living room when the other two cats were in our laps. Such a relief - I was convinced she had escaped or died in a corner or something.

We learned two new things on this trip: there is a bus stop just outside the airport that could save us 10 Euros if we could manage to find it again; and if there is another trip we will take along a clothes brush. We enjoyed the lovely warm weather but it's a relief not to be covered in cat hair!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Grandma's Cloths

Initially I was going to do a review of some of Grandma's fabulous clothes in remembrance of her birthday. Then I read last year that I was going to knit a dish cloth and I hadn't yet. So 'clothes' became 'cloths' and I set myself to knitting. 

I'd bought a 40 metre ball of string a couple of months ago for 50 pence. I cast on 40 with who knows what sized wooden needles. Though the photo looks roughly square, it is in fact rectangular folded in half, so I'd try 30 stitches for the next one, if this one works out at all. It took maybe an hour and I read blogs whilst knitting. 

I do recommend learning the 'continental' style of knitting. I've heard this called Russian and German and all sorts, but I think it's all the same. Once mastered it is much less energetic than American style knitting.  One of the ladies at my craft group was interested in my description. When I said that it saved one having to throw the yarn around the needle with the right hand and instead used a knitting needle a bit like a crochet hook, she summarized beautifully by saying 'So instead of being throwers they are hookers?'.  I've become a hooker then...

I think my Grandma would tell me I was a clever girl.

Friday, 12 September 2014

An Emotional Subject (and Happy Birthday Rita)

Each year the Women's Institute selects a 'resolution' that is voted upon by members to support or not; they then use their organisation's voice and resources to campaign, usually to tell 'government' what to do. This is a cultural thing that goes against my grain; I'm more likely to resolve what I'm going to do, not tell someone else what they should do. But that's just me. There have been a few resolutions in recent years that seemed to me a bit pointless. However, this year's resolution was pretty darn good.  It's about increasing awareness of organ donation.

"The NFWI notes that three people die every day whilst waiting for an organ transplant. We call on every member of the WI to make their wishes regarding organ donation known, and to encourage their families and friends, and members of their local communities to do likewise."

You can't really argue with this one can you? It doesn't say DO IT, it says everyone should think about it and make their wishes known. Vivien and I went along to the presentation at the regional office a few months ago to learn more. The two nurses who did the presentation began by saying it was 'an emotional subject' but I was thinking 'Yeah, right. It's pretty straight-forward really.' However, I was leaking profusely by the end of the talk, trying to surreptitiously dry my face. Vivien was either pretending not to notice or pretending she wasn't with me, I'm not sure which. Anyhow, this is what I learned.

Organ donation can a very cost effective procedure. I think they said that the average cost of keeping a recipient alive while awaiting their transplant is about £35K per year. They will still require a lot of medical attention afterwards and have to take immuno-suppressing drugs, but the aftercare is only something like £5-7K per year. 

In any given year in the UK there are over 7,000 people waiting for a transplant of some kind but only about 3,000 transplants take place each year from about 1,000 donors. Obviously a person can donate multiple organs to multiple recipients, but it is still astonishing that there are only 1,000 donors each year when there are over 20 million people on the donor registration system. This is for a number of reasons. 

One is that the donor can't have died from any cause that could be transmitted by transplant to the recipient. Another reason is that the donor needs to be under medical care at the time of their death, ie in a facility, such that the viability of their organs can be maintained. That lets out anyone who dies at home in their bed, etc. And of course donors have to be matched with the recipient for a good outcome, but this matching happens not just in the country but throughout Europe and for all I know perhaps farther.

One of the main problems here is that even though a person might have put their name on the donor registry, at the point of death the family will be asked their permission. Bizarrely, almost any member of the family can decline to have the donation take place and it won't happen. There is no hierarchy about who can and cannot overrule the deceased's decision. In theory, a step-daughter or a son-in-law might scare the doctors off if they are adamant that it will leave them with emotional scars, even if the spouse or children are happy for it to commence. NHS doctors are frightened of hysterical headlines in the tabloids: They stole my step-mother's kidneys! Though the media have a lot to answer for on may fronts, I couldn't help but think it would be a fairly dysfunctional family who couldn't come to some agreement in lines with the wishes of the departed, but then the whole arrangement strikes me as dysfunctional. I read a report somewhere - I think it was US data - that indicated that organ donation correlated with level of education, which makes sense. 


To be fair, there may be situations were the deceased is not on the organ donation registry and the family are unsure of what they would have wanted. Though my parents and I never discussed the matter specifically, I'm pretty certain I know what they would have said, just the same as Bill: My bits won't be of any further use to me, if they can do good elsewhere then of course they should be donated - don't be silly.

Britain is well behind Europe in meeting the needs of their transplant patients. Spain, we were told, is in the forefront on this, probably because their laws require a post-mortem exam on every death, not just selected ones. So people are probably more accustomed to the idea of the surgical processes that will follow the death of their loved ones.

Wales has decided on a different system which will take effect in December next year. After that anyone who has been resident in Wales for at least 12 months and over the age of 18 will be 'deemed' to be willing to be an organ donor rather than not willing. People can still opt out and family members can still object, but it will be with the understanding that the deceased didn't opt out and so by default can be 'deemed' to have desired their organs to be donated. 

Knowing that I was to report back to our WI group - I had 5 whole minutes - I did a bit more research, for them and for me. Religious beliefs aside, there were only two points I found made against donation. One is that the family might be confused at their loved one being kept on life support until the organs could be removed. The difference between 'alive' and 'on life support' would need to be explained, possibly well in advance. 

Another idea, which may bother some people, is that the neither the donor or the family gets a say about who receives the transplant.  The 'gift' of organ donation can have absolutely no strings attached other than the medical considerations for potential success. I think this is part of the beauty of this sort of giving. 

Even if it's the polar opposite who might receive my organs, it's still better than a trash can I think.
source (and some amazing other images there!)

My only personal squeamishness about this is the thought that perhaps at some point in my old age the NHS might decide I'm worth more as body parts than as a functioning human being. I recognise this as emotional scars from my old job and I try to ignore it. In any case, under current policy anyone over 85 years of age isn't considered eligible to donate their bits anyhow and I certainly plan to live beyond that. No one else I've talked to considers this, so I know it's just my own foolishness.


Perhaps strangely, the part of the presentation that got to me was more the stories about the donors' families than about the recipients: a woman who lost two sons to cycling accidents and was relieved that she was able to donate at least the organs of the second son; a woman whose grief at losing her husband was interrupted briefly by joy at the idea that his organs could help someone else. Also about a man who lost his daughter but managed to connect with the teenage boy who received her heart. The boy was a runner; transplant recipients are fanatic about their health, they need to be. The father showed up to cheer this boy at his races, taking some comfort from the good that came from his daughter's death.

I wrote years ago about my Aunt Rita's organ donation. She was a nurse and had started saving lives even before she left nursing school when she was first at the scene of a car accident. We were all proud of her for many reasons and on many occasions and her organ donor decision was just another example of the incredible person she was. I know she would be pleased herself to know that she had - once again - been able to prolong someone else's life.  

Bill and I have had this conversation between ourselves and with each of his children. I thought I'd suggest - where ever you live - that you consider your own wishes - whichever your views - and have that conversation with your loved ones as well. 


I mistakenly published this a month early and a comment brought this to my attention. I've re-scheduled it for the correct date. In the meantime, I've learned a very sad story about a lady in our WI craft group. Last I saw her she was very pregnant with twins and we heard she'd had two girls in addition to their 2 1/2 year old son. Organ donation was important to her because of their son's cystic fibrosis; people with this condition may need a lung transplant later in life. 

When the twins were only 12 weeks old their 43-year-old father, a keen, fit cyclist, was knocked off his cycle and suffered a fatal brain injury.  Having discussed their views about organ donation she asked for this to happen and says it gave her something to focus on and brought some comfort to her and his other family members.

I'm thinking about throwing away Bill's cycles...

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Grandpa's Purse

Actually this isn't Grandpa's purse, it belonged to Bill's mother, Ella.  Made of wool fabric, it has two pockets (I have cash in one, cards in the other) and a 'kissing clasp' closure. I never knew what that was called until recently. It's the shape and the kissing clasp that remind me of Grandpa; his was brown leather and had only one pocket in which he kept his change.

I'm not usually one to count out exact change, not wanting to delay the queue behind me. I remember as a child often seeing Grandpa count out his change and I grew up thinking of this practice as 'being careful' with your money.  Though he and Grandma lived off their Social Security (as did Mom and Daddy - quite possible if your house is paid for, or it was then), they left a bank account with $7,000 (I have the statement in Grandpa's old banker's box).

This is a birthday remembrance of my Grandpa, who was born 120 years ago (gosh that makes me feel old!)

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Skeletons in My Family Tree, or Esther's (Mostly True) Story

This is a 'story' I've written just putting together historical documents recently uncovered by my cousins in New York; Brisbane and Perth, Australia; and Glasgow. One supplied birth and death certificates, another cousin found newspaper articles from online archives. Someone else had family letters and I found electoral rolls. All this together with census records in Scotland practically told the story itself, there was very little for me to make up. Esther was my 'first cousin twice removed', or my grandfather's first cousin. I didn't know she existed until a few months ago.

"I didn't really mean to kill myself when I was 39. Or maybe I did, not that anyone cared either way. Tom, my second husband, sure didn't. Maybe he even killed me, I can't tell you. Well, he wasn't really my husband, but living in Sydney away from all my family up in Queensland, we got away with living together. Anyhow, when he found me on the floor, he just took the tube from the gas stove out of my mouth and stumbled back to bed, drunk. He didn't even notice I was dead, or at least that's what he told the cops. I just love how most of the newspapers described him as 'ill'. Read: hungover; I'm telling you he was ossified. It wasn't just me. 

But way before Tom, I really messed up my life when I got pregnant at 17. Mother and Dad were really upset, it just being 1915 and us living in rural Queensland. My Irish parents, born in Scotland, had immigrated from Ayrshire in the South West of Scotland all the way to Australia. Dad, whose people were once iron miners, now had 1,700 acres of land, growing wheat, lambs and dairy cows. We were supposed to be respectable, pioneers in our small community, and I let them down.

Mother was particularly livid. She was determined that I should do right by my child. I guess she felt that way because she'd been illegitimate herself. Her mother didn't marry her father but found someone else to go off and marry and they started another family. Though mother was close to one of her half-brothers, she never got to live with her mother again. She was left behind with her grandparents, always on the outside looking in, I expect.

I'm sure mother thought she was doing the right thing by me as well, George's father being well off and all, with a big station down in Victoria. George had 28 to my 17 years so he was always going to be the boss, wasn't he? I don't think that ever set well with me but there it was. I tried to make the best of it to start off. 

So, George and I were married and Mary was born in 1916, named after George's favourite sister. She was a lovely child, Mary, and I reckon she was made of stern stuff. Then again being the eldest - as I was - she had to grow up fast so she could help me with all the other bairns.

Esther, top right, with George and six of  their eight children.

Katherine, named for my sister Kit, came along in February 1918 and then Harold at the end of October the same year. That says a lot about my dear husband, George, doesn't it? We had George Jr. in November 1919. I got a bit of a break before Heather was born in 1921. 

And then the world fell apart. My darling Katherine wandered off one afternoon and found the hut where one of George's labourers had stayed a while. Old Mack left behind the arsenic he used to keep the bugs off the vegetables and the ticks off the cows, and dear sweet Kitty found it. She was only four years old when she died of poisoning. The coroner ruled it as accidental but I know George always blamed me. I blamed myself. But by then my children were ages 6, 4, 3, 2 and 1. I was five months gone with Stuart when I lost my Kitty girl. I was 24 by then but by God I felt a hundred years older and wearier still.

I took to drink in a big way. Of course George hated my drinking. He stayed away more and the babies didn't come so often. Maureen was born in 1925 and then Lucy Jean in 1926. Lucy was premature and I only had her a week before she left me. Then George left me as well. He went back to Victoria to his father's home farm and he took the kids with him. All my babies gone!

I drowned my sorrows well and truly then. It wasn't too long before I took up with Tom. He cheered me a bit, always had a joke and a bottle and I could forget my losses for a day or two. We left the countryside behind and hit the big city, moving all the way down to Sydney. Tom got a job working as a security guard at a factory but all the money seemed to go for booze. Of course we had kids, you knew that already. John and Robbie were born in 1929 and 1935. My eldest daughter, Mary, she got married at her father's home in 1936; I didn't go, didn't dare show my face.

Tom didn't come from a wealthy family, or if he did I never saw any of it. We were poor, worse off than I ever knew how to manage. There was never enough after Tom bought the booze and we both drank it. I meant to do better, but I was too worn down, too far gone. I loved Johnnie and Robbie but I pined for my other babies, especially Kitty. Poor Lucy never had a chance but if only I'd paid more attention maybe I'd still have my lovely Katherine and the rest of my bairns. The bottle was necessary by this time, you see, just to make life more bearable. 

Anyhow, Tom had this job at a factory and one night the bitumen boiler went up in flames. Tom tried to put out the fire but his hands were burned. Even one of the firemen got badly burned. So, Tom was off work for  a week with his burnt hands and I doubt he drew a sober breath the whole time. He said his hands hurt something awful, said he needed anesthetic, didn't he? I understood about anesthetic myself. We both stayed completely pie-eyed all week.

The kids were really in a bad way by now, more bones than flesh. There was never much food in the house and I know I wasn't a good mother anymore. I'd just lost the will. The nosy old landlady - we'd only lived there a couple of weeks and she was on to us - had shopped me to the authorities. I knew they were going to arrest me and take my babies away. Having lost all my other children I just couldn't face that again. Late that night Tom and I had a big row about it all and he knocked me around a bit. I found a tube and attached one end to the coal gas stove and put the other end in my mouth. And that was the end of my story."


The Muswellbrook Chronicle 22 June 1937

SYDNEY, Tuesday.

When a flame spurted from a bitumen boiler at premises in Wentworth Avenue, Glebe Point,this morning', two men, Thomas BXXXXX (46), night watchman, and a fireman named Esterman, were severely burned about the body.The outbreak was soon extinguished, and practically no damage was done to the building.

Sydney Morning Herald
23 June 1937

Fire in Factory.

A fire officer and a workman suffered burns while endeavouring to extinguish a fire which broke out in the factory of Pabco Products(Australia), Ltd., roofing and flooring manufacturers, in Wentworth Park Road, Glebe, yesterday.

They were Station-Officer F. Eastlake, of Pyrmont fire station, and Thomas BXXXXX, 42, a married man, of Doncaster avenue, Kensington, and an employee of the company. First-aid treatment was rendered by firemen.

The fire broke out at about 7 a.m., when a quantity of boiling paint overflowed from a container. Brigades from George-street West, Glebe, and Pyrmont were summoned,and the fire was extinguished before a great deal of damage had been done. When the firemen arrived at the building they smashed down the front door to get at the fire quickly.

Sydney Morning Herald 27 July 1937

After an inquiry Into the death of Esther JXXXXXXX, whose body was found in a flat at Doncaster Avenue, Kensington, on July 2, the City Coroner yesterday found that the woman had committed suicide by Inhaling gas. The reason, he suggested, was that she knew that a warrant had been issued for her arrest, and that her two small children, who were also found in the flat, were to be taken from her. A statement said to have been made to the police by Thomas BXXXXX was tendered in evidence. It set out that BXXXXX had been drinking with the woman In the flat, and that on the morning of July 2 he found her with the end of a piece of tubing, which was connected to a gas jet, in her mouth. He pulled the tube out and turned off the gas, the statement continued, but he then went to sleep, not realising that she was dead. The Coroner described the conditions in which the children had been kept as "most revolting." He said that statements in evidence that the woman had repeatedly brought cheap wine into the flat for her family were almost incredible.

Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners Advocate 27 July 1937

SYDNEY, Monday.

"Most revolting," was how the City Coroner  today described the condition of two children of Esther JXXXXXXXX, who was found dead in her flat at Kensington on July 2. Evidence was given that the two children had been locked in the flat for two days while JXXXXXXX and Thomas BXXXXX consumed large quantities of cheap wine. BXXXXX said that on July 2 he found JXXXXXXX with a gas tube in her mouth. He turned off the gas, carried the woman into the lounge room, and then went to sleep again. He had no idea the woman was dead.' The Coroner returned a verdict of suicide.  

Barrier Miner Broken Hill New South Wales 29 July 1937 

SORDID DEATH OF WOMAN Committed Suicide While Inebriated 
SYDNEY, Thursday. 

DECLARING that the case had presented some extremely puzzling  features, the city coroner returned a verdict that Esther JXXXXXXX (39) had committed suicide on or about July 2 last by inhaling a quantity of coal gas, while in a state of inebriation, at her home in Doncaster Avenue, Kensington. Evidence disclosed that in one room of a flat in Doncaster Avenue  police found the body of the woman lying on the floor, with her two  children crawling about her, while in another room they found a  man named Thomas BXXXXX, who was in 'a state of drunken stupor.' 

"This is a very sordid matter,"said the coroner, and almost a  revolting one when one thinks that a man and woman should get into  such a shocking state with 'drink' and leave their children shut up for two days." 

Advocate Bernie Tasmania 3 July 1937  

Children Clamoring For Food : Mother Dead, Father Ill. 
SYDNEY, Friday.

Police found Mrs. Esther BXXXXX (39) dead today  in a flat in Doncaster Avenue, Kensington. Her husband, Thomas BXXXXX,  lay on a bed and was unable to tell clearly what had happened, and their two children were clamoring for food. The children, a boy aged seven and a girl aged two, in a search for food, had spilled jam and other stuff on the kitchen floor. They were taken away by a child welfare officer. A post mortem examination will be made to determine the cause of  death.  Superficial wounds were noticed on Mrs BXXXXX's face and neck. The police stated that BXXXXX would be admitted to hospital for treatment.

Recorder Port Pirie South Australia 3 July 1937

SYDNEY, Friday. 

MRS. Esther BXXXXXX (39), was found dead on the floor of a flat at Kensington today in mysterious circumstances. Her husband, who was lying on the bed, was unable to tell clearly what had happened. Two children, a boy aged 7 and a girl aged 2, were in the flat. The woman had been dead since last night. Her husband, Thomas BXXXXX,  was admitted to hospital for treatment with superficial wounds on the  face and neck. The police state that BXXXXX had been burned. 

News Adelaide South Australia 3 July 1937 

Woman Found Dead in Flat SYDNEY, Friday.

In a flat in a building in Kensington today Mrs. Esther BXXXXX, 39, was found dead on the  floor. Her husband, Thomas BXXXXX, who was lying on a bed suffering  from injuries sustained at his work last month, was unable to tell  clear The children, who in their search for food had spilled jam and other foodstuffs on the kitchen floor, were taken away by the Child Welfare officer. A post-mortem examination will be made to determine  the cause of death. Superficial wounds were noticed on Mrs. BXXXXX's  face and neck. BXXXXX was admitted to hospital for treatment. 

Longreach Leader Queensland 3 July 1937 


The incessant crying of a baby in a flat at a residential at Kensington today led to the discovery of a dead woman, her husband apparently and their two children nearly starved. The children were so emaciated that the youngest was barely able to walk. The dead woman was Mrs. Esther BXXXXX (33). Three weeks ago she and her husband  Thomas BXXXXX (45) took a furnished fiat on the ground floor at the rear of the residential. A week ago the man was severely burned about  the hands in an explosion when a quantity of malthoid caught fire at Glebe. Since then he has not been at work. The children, John (8) and his sister Bobbie (2) were heard crying since early this morning and the proprietress telephoned the Child Welfare Department. Two officers of the Department, with a constable, went to the place, and  were told that Mrs. BXXXXX was last seen yesterday. The proprietress  prized open a window for the officers, and when she climbed through  Into the sitting- room,she found the two children in a pitiable state. Their mother was lying dead on the floor, fully clothed, and the children were crawling about her. They could barely stand. They  had spilled sugar from a container on the floor, and were both trying to scrape it up for food. Groans from a bedroom attracted the officers to the room and BXXXXX was discovered. He appeared to be  ill. The children were carried out and women tenants made them  porridge and gave them biscuits which they ate ravenously. The woman's body was taken to the morgue for a post-mortem, and BXXXXX was admitted to the Sydney Hospital. The children were placed in the  care of the Children's Welfare Department, and are being treated for  malnutrition. The condition of the girl is serious.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Small Coincidences

Were it not for carrying a notebook with me most of the time, I'd not have been able to tell you these things, not that they are of significance. It was just that my brain was full of odd bits of information that seemed to come together in different places. 

For one, we passed a sign when driving in Wales that said 'Brynmawr' and I asked Bill what the name meant. He told me it meant 'Big Pit'; he must have been thinking of the Big Pit Coal Museum near by. Turns out it means 'Bill Hill'. It's a place name I associate with Katherine Hepburn, who graduated from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania.  I took the book, H.D. Thoreau: A Writers Journal, with me on this trip and when I opened it up found that he had written it in Bryn Mawr, PA.  I'm still working on that book, it having traveled with us to Nice when we cat-sat there again in August. I have a particular reason for wanting to read it, aside from just the mental discipline required. 

Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire

Another book I took on that trip was Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier, which was excellent by the way. The movie was great, but the book is even better. We visited the Matisse museum in Nice and in the gift shop I discovered happily that Chevalier has written any number of books, though I didn't buy any written in French. 

Dyrham Park

Anyhow, we traipsed around four grand estates on the Wales trip in May and in at least two the commentary called our attention to large pieces of Delft pottery which were all the rage in the 17th and 18th centuries. I gather they were a great way of conspicuously demonstrating that one could not only afford to import exotic pottery, but also to import exotic tulips to put in the expensive pottery. Girl with a Pearl Earring is set in Delft in The Netherlands. 

Dyrham Park

Dyrham Park

None of this is exactly earth-shattering, I know. It's just that it made me feel as though the world was a small place not just because of the confluence of people but of ideas. In the Western world, anyhow. Have you ever had this sort of funny little coincidence that grabbed your attention?

Chatsworth, Derbyshire