Hello to the new month of March!

It is always nice to commence a new month, especially as I hum along on my 366-day Blog Challenge.

It shows that I am making progress as I start another month of writing. I have certainly been inspired often on this journey. It has also opened up a whole new world to me which I am enjoying. I hope you are too! Onwards and upwards to Month Number Three.

Today, I will share the next drawing from my calendar which says “ BE HEALTHY AND HAPPY.” I love that the drawing shows the world and under it the words: “Everyone should be happy and healthy all over the world.” Young Leah and Emily – aged 10 – from Tasmania are thinking BIG here. Let’s take them up on it and use it as our mantra today!

As the drawing shows: eat healthy, walk your dog if you have one and “Don’t Litter” which is interesting. So, NOT littering is good for your wellbeing obviously? It makes you feel good about yourself for being an upstanding citizen. And take those supermarket trolleys back to their station, no matter how hard it is, ya hear?! That is the one I try to follow: even when I don’t feel like it, I just make myself do it and I come away feeling ten feet tall.

Moving along today,  I ask you to indulge me in a little nostalgia, which is my indulgence every year on the 1st March: my father’s birthday. You see, my father – Edward (Ted) – was such an influence on the lives of us six children. I have written previously about Dad lightening the mood for all of us growing up, so we missed him terribly when he died at 80 years of age in 1989.

Dad loved writing (now you know from whence I got my love of writing!) and we encouraged him to write down his amazing life journey. Finally, in April 1989, he self-published his book, thanks to my nephew Wayne who did all the hard work of typing and publishing. Dad died four months later. The book was titled “just call me Ted” (sic) (which was his catch cry upon meeting someone) but the title “just in time” would have been equally appropriate!

 Today I have taken a short extract from his book, which was published with “no masks, cloaks or disguises provided by corrected spelling, punctuation or grammar” as Wayne wrote in the forward. Dad did not have much education and left school around Fifth Grade due to poverty. He never did correctly spell any of his children’s names! We loved that. Dad writes:

“It was in the year of 1909, March 1st in Hackney a slum area of London, I became the forth son of my Scottish father. My Scotch father a widower, was to meet my Mother by the name, Alice Dawson. My mother was English of Scotch parents born in Cornwell.

My father, already with a family of three, courted and married my Mother. Our name Strachan became profific (sic) with the aid of my parents. My father was to have a short life oweing to flour on his lungs, in the bakering trade a common complait in those days. My mother was left with eight boys and three girls, a common number in the good old days.” (pp2-3)

Dad goes on to recount growing up during the First World War and talks of German bombs exploding on the Hackney Marshes (where the London Olympic Stadium has now been built from reclaimed marsh land!). He tells tales of often stealing apples and other fruit from trees which hung over the fence of the orchids, as the family were so poor.

He became a canny operator, getting into scrapes as he tried to ride the trains free, roamed Sherwood Forest writing “Robin Hood himself would have been thrilled to see us boys climb to the tops (of trees) then fly down ropes to crash land and nearly kill ourselves.” (p12) He worked in various occupations (factories, tailoring) and was creative and resourceful.

The sense of adventure that was part of my father, led him to answer the ad on a billboard asking for men to “Come to Australia or Canada.” So, it was no surprise when, at 19 years of age, he put his hand up to come to Australia and with “twenty Cockneys” went off to the country to be trained in farm work, carpentry and brick laying etc for four months.

Dad arrived in Fremantle to an Australia in the grip of the Depression (1929) and there was no work. Dad and his mate Jock, canny from living in the slums, “jumped the rattlers” (rode the trains free) travelling all over Western Australia, picking up work and a feed wherever he could, often sleeping in fields. Oh, the tales he tells in his book of those  years, would make a great movie but I do not have the space for it here!

Eventually, he worked his way (free of course) around to the eastern states where he settled in Brisbane, Queensland and there, whilst mending a fence … behold … he met this beautiful Lebanese girl who sewed at home. Mum asked him to fix her machine which had broken down. For ever after, Dad told the story that Mum lured him into the house with this “pretence” and hooked him! He was 28 years of age; they were married by the time he was thirty. The Lebanese people loved my father!

For the rest of his working life, he would work in Brisbane for six months or so, get bored (I wonder why after all that adventure?) and would HAVE to go off to the country to work, or to Sydney to build units, or to Gladstone to build the Power Station. All on the pretext of earning good money. Interesting really, because in between, Mum would manage to have another baby!!

Years later as a parent, when I confronted him with the real reason for leaving us (adventure – we hated him going) he said “I know, but don’t tell your mother!” At least he was honest. I loved that about him. And he was proud to be an Australian Pommie (Australian slang for the English). He wrote “I found the Aussies a weird people. They called me a Pom, a name from a fruit. I became proud of that name.” (p2)

So today I want to pay tribute to my Dad who, considering he never remembered his own father, was a wonderful father to all of us six children. His sense of adventure and fun spilled over to us. His work ethic was legendary and his ability to “make a buck” as he called it, never ceased to amaze us. Private school education was what we gained from all of this.

In closing, I want to say: “Thank you Dad, you were the best! I hope you and Mum are “up there” having a celebration today while all of us down here are thinking of you.”

I’d like to leave you with the  poem “Almost Summer in the Garden … memories of my father” which I wrote for Dad late last year (some would have read it already). Dad loved to garden and was always making flower pots and other creations. Here is the link: