Monthly Archives: August 2017

Mail Box Spotting and Front Yard Art

“The mailman, if he’s extra tired, would pass them in his sleep,
It’s safest to address the note to ‘Care of Conroy’s sheep’,
For five and twenty thousand head can scarcely go astray,
You write to ‘Care of Conroy’s sheep along the Castlereagh’.”
A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson,
“The Travelling Post Office”
The Bulletin, 10 March 1894

A homogeneous, common, admittedly ageing, urban letterbox.

Most countries tend to have standardized mailboxes with uniform colours.  Japan makes them original. They have things like Kawai and mascots with amazing boxes, customized according to their location.

One of the first things that people see when they visit you at your house is the mailbox. Not every one is satisfied with the standard variety of boxes available in the hardware store. Mailboxes can be turned into amazing front yard decorations. Building creative affairs does not require large investment. All you need is an imagination galore which is free.

If you are not up to making a unique mailbox you can kill time mailbox spotting. Sunday drives may not be in fashion now but humour me. I thought of my parents as I drove around back roads looking for  letterboxes with character.

When we were kids we were fairly easily entertained. I grew up in Gippsland and have memories of the long trip to the city. To keep us occupied my mother had us play various versions of  “I Spy With My Little Eye’ or we identified the makes of cars passing by. Now, sadly, children are occupied with a device and there is less conversation.

This is not my father but he had a very similar rig when he was delivering bread to outlying places.

On our Sunday drives, up and down laneways and byways, we took in all kinds of detail; checking out what improvements people were making to their places. Having delivered bread to outlying farms with a horse and bread cart, Dad knew the region well and people had all sorts of unusual boxes to leave the bread in.

Head out this weekend.  Just for a change, pack the thermos and a picnic and go mail box spotting. Look for weird and wonderful letterboxes.

A collection of found letterboxes! Well! They were not actually lost! They were found in backroads around Castlemaine and beyond. While no addresses are shown, if your letter box appears here and you would rather it not be shown, I will remove the image.

Like these sisters, you could always go on a bike ride and look for unique mail boxes. Aim to see as many unusual letter boxes as possible, take lots of photos and keep a sketch book filled with fun ideas for front yard art.  Decide which is your favourite! Believe me! It is quite addictive to do this.

Share some photos in the comment box here or on Facebook. Head to an Office Works, print the best photos quite cheaply and randomly post them in more traditional letterboxes, like this one, to remind people just what a statement they could be making with their letterbox.

Chinese Cemetery Vaughan Springs

In 1861, there were more than 24,000 Chinese immigrants on the Victorian goldfields of Ararat, Ballarat, Beechworth, Bendigo, Castlemaine and Maryborough. 

Vaughan Springs was once a large gold rush town called “the Junction”. Many Chinese miners moved there in 1854 and searched for alluvial gold in areas that had been abandoned by the Europeans. They established market gardens and Vaughan became an important stopover.

The Chinese diggers moved from goldfield to goldfield within NSW and across the border. Constantly on the move, their presence and experience are evidenced mainly from the observations and interpretation of Anglo-Australians, from archaeological digs and from objects saved by families and community members. There are few written accounts and sources from a Chinese perspective. The Chinese attracted particular attention and local newspapers were quick to comment on their distinctive features, clothes, languages and habits — especially their tendency to travel en masse — their methods of transport, their diligence, tirelessness and productivity.

Any admiration of their work ethic was offset by envy and resentment when times got hard. The Chinese were often scapegoated by disgruntled Anglo diggers as seen in the violent anti-Chinese riots at Turon (1853), Meroo (1854) Rocky River (1856) Tambaroora (1858) Lambing Flat, Kiandra and Nundle (1860 and 1861) and Tingha tin fields (1870). They were seen initially as oddities, later as rivals and then as threats to white Australia.

Today the small Chinese Cemetery on a rise above the mineral springs is very different to the waste land created by the gold rush. Now it is a quiet, tranquil place for those who were not taken home to China, but who now rest here. Likewise, Castlemaine Cemetery has a very beautiful grove for the Chinese who died on the goldfields.

 

Make a Mailbox Happy and Improve your Mood

Painting, sculpting, dancing, making music, and all the other artistic pursuits have benefits that go far beyond pure enjoyment or cultural creation — these activities can also strengthen your brain and improve your mood.

Since the inception of emailing and texts mail boxes around the globe have lain empty, gathering bills and cobwebs, lamenting the lost art of letter writing, waiting for Godot to come, deposit something and make them loved again.

The therapeutic benefits of unsent mail are quite well known. They are a powerful journalling tool! When running courses I promoted letter writing as a way of firming ideas for a novel or script. I also had participants write formal letters to themselves and posted them weeks after they were written. When my 35-year-old son moved to Berlin and was taking time to settle to his new life I took to writing to him and including silly drawings and fun stickers. He enjoyed the looks on the faces of people in cafes when he said that he was writing a letter to his mother.

A Brisbane postman makes fake letters for a dog. Pippa the dog always runs towards Martin Studer, a postman from Brisbane, whenever she sees him – she loves getting mail! In fact, the pooch enjoys it so much, the postman even writes tiny letters especially for her. He does not want to upset the good girl. “Sometimes, Pippa comes out for the daily delivery but there’s no mail for her to collect,” Studer writes on Facebook. “So I have to improvise.”

“I’ve been on Pippa’s run for the last 2-3 years,” Studer told Bored Panda. “I have always written something to her.  She LOVES the postie. It really makes her day when we come by.”

I totally understand how Pippa feels. I have vivid memories of the letters, resplendent with foreign stamps arriving. I had friends in America and Canada and still have a small skunk brooch that my Canadian pen pal sent me. Much later, when I was running Soul Food, some participants sent parcels and they were greeted with delight.

There are sites, like Snail Mail Pen Pals, that will connect people to pen friends but there are plenty of innovative ways to find a pen pal and engage in snail mail exchanges such as these. A recent article talked about reasons to do art even if you are bad at it. My daughter and I love sending ridiculous postcards from our own airport before boarding to go overseas. We usually add embellishments to the name of the recipient, some of which are best not mentioned here. Mail Art is a fun place for a budding artist to start.

In a post on Miss Pelican’s Perch, Lori Gloyd remembers the work of Nick Bantock and the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin and Sabine. She brainstorms and considers 

“I got to thinking maybe I could tell an epistolary short story on my break. It will be a challenge since I don’t have access to Photoshop, my favored tool of visual creations. I may have to go old school with pen and paint. And then there’s the question: from whom shall the correspondence come, to whom shall they go, and what story shall it tell?”

Here is a list of more Epistolary books.

Suffer the Children

Life on the goldfields was particularly harsh on children. They were often used as a source of labour and could earn small amounts of money for errands. Their young immune systems were still developing and children were highly susceptible to diseases that sometimes ran through mining communities. However, even the young were drawn to the lure of gold and could also be found panning along the rivers.

Aside with the associated danger of children wandering off and getting lost, the poor and inadequate drainage of the early settlements caused much discomfort not only for everyone’s olfactory nerves but on the community’s health problems.

We take for granted the way in which we can now store perishable foods, having a clean water supply, a well operating sewerage system and the many other conveniences at the press of a button or flick of a switch.

When we really think about it, how would we cope under the circumstances that the early diggers and their families faced when they first arrived here? There were a number of diseases which were fatal to the goldfield’s population, and the health officer of the local council in co-operation with the police had to be extremely vigilant. Police and health officials were a partnership which we rarely consider at the present, but at the time  this was almost a symbiotic relationship.

An example of this is that it was an appointed police officer who made inspections regarding sanitation or the lack thereof, and made demands that certain activities had to cease or be curbed, such as slaughtering and butchering animals in one’s own back yard. Another instance which was recognised as undesirable was to allow cesspools to sit and stagnate on private land.

If the drains which had been commissioned and dug by the council on the sides of roads had insufficient fall, these too were a problem as animal waste accumulated in these low spots, along with road runoff from the horses and bullocks used in transport. Effluvia was a frequently used word to describe the gaseous smells emanating from the decaying organic material lying in the street gutters. Another word, now not in regular use, to describe the horrific gaseous smells was miasma.

Many people thought that the smell alone would be the transmitter of disease, however it was not generally understood that water and milk were, in the 1850s, the cause of many of the health afflictions which beset the community. Diphtheria is a disease which is rare today, yet it was very troublesome in early Bendigo. Diphtheria is highly contagious, its symptoms are a very high fever and difficulty in breathing and swallowing as it produces a false membrane in the throat.

In the mid 1870s diphtheria created great alarm as it had caused the deaths of a significant number of infants, with older members of the community not being spared either. Those who were treated in hospital for diphtheria were few and far between, as frequently by the time the disease was diagnosed it was already too late. Source: Bendigo Weekly.

In these conditions it was the children who suffered and the Pennyweight Cemetery is a testimony to the number of children who perished on the Forest Creek Diggings.

A Child’s Life on the Goldfields

What life was like on the Goldfields

Life for Children on the Goldfields

“Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. “

Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

Pullman Philip 2

Wise words from Philip Pullman, who received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2005:

Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. If you don’t give a child food, the damage quickly becomes visible. If you don’t let a child have fresh air and play, the damage is also visible, but not so quickly. If you don’t give a child love, the damage might not be seen for some years, but it’s permanent.

But if you don’t give a child art and stories and poems and music, the damage is not so easy to see. It’s there, though. Their bodies are healthy enough; they can run and jump and swim and eat hungrily and make lots of noise, as children have always done, but something is missing.

It’s true that some people grow up never encountering…

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Become Rock Nerds

Majestic mountains, breathtaking canyon views, gorgeous arrays of sea stacks and beautiful sandstone arches are but a few of Mother Nature’s wonders that beckon photographers worldwide. These geological features lure artists of all kinds to paint, preserve, photograph, or sculpt. They’ve been cut by rivers, uplifted by faults or folds, carved by the wind, and eroded by time.
Russ Burden

When I was out taking some photos of this anticlinal fold in the Kalimna Park, just behind Castlemaine, I was asked if I was a rock nerd. I laughed! That is a term I associate with someone like Tim Minchin, but I confess I have been looking at rocks quite a bit lately.

A new global craze has kids all over the world getting outdoors to play hide and seek with hand-painted rocks. Kids are naturally interested in rocks. How many times have we witnessed students climbing on large boulders, collecting rocks, or throwing pebbles in the river?

The painted rock craze has been praised as a cheap and easy way to get kids away from technology and outside.

The hidden rocks are typically small, flat garden stones with a simple picture or a nice message painted on either side.

The rocks are hidden in parks, with photos posted on a Facebook page so other parents can take their children to find the rocks, then re-hide them somewhere else.

Rather than paint them I am happy to keep a small collection in the garden this lovely statue.

Educating students on rocks and minerals is an important and fun part of  science curriculum. This activity will lead to many more fun things to do and may result in an interest in photography and  a growth of interest in geology.

 

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