Friday, January 18, 2013



I guess this photo taken by sand and sea best represents the Aussie lifestyle my Reluctant Traveler and I enjoy. As you can see the advancing years have been kind to us, or maybe I’m just viewing this shot through rose coloured glasses.

Honestly, Stan doesn’t look any different to me now than he did 54 years ago when he slipped the wedding ring on my finger.

On a personal level this year has seen its fair share of sorrow and happiness, the wedding of a nephew, the passing of his mother, my sister in law.   At our age no perusal of the daily paper passes without a quick glance through the funeral column.  You just never know when the name of an equally decrepit friend from our youth may sadly grace the page.

We certainly don’t dwell on death, it is after all a fact of life and  will come to pass in its own good time; and right now we’re far too busy enjoying life to really give the ‘big D’ serious thought.

We’re also blessed with a group of like minded friends, always there in the background, non intrusive yet ready at a moment’s notice  to party or, more importantly to help when a helping hand is needed.


I invented a title for this group shot taken on a recent party exodus to Iluka, Straddie’s Black Eyed Mob in deference to the sunglasses shielding our gleeful, or in some cases bloodshot eyes.

To give you some idea of the scope of our friends and the mainly open air life we all lead I put together a montage of people, places and events.

Makes for a hectic 12 months doesn’t it?



On the home front I recounted Straddie’s Darkest Day when our local post office was fire bombed and a shell shocked community rallied to our post master and post mistresses aid.  This was an event that brought to the forefront Straddie’s precious community spirit.

From the flames and the ashes a new post office is emerging and Brian and Hetty will move back home in the New Year.

Tomorrow's Post Office rising from the ashes of yesterday's fire.



The multifaceted Ancestry series progressed with new blogs posted about the tragic life of Camilla the Fourth Sister from Sussex; and the welcome addition of new found modern “cousins”  ... Jenny Gallagher in Australia, a fellow McGowan grand-daughter to share our Fijian heritage, and from America new tales from another distant relation, Terri Porcelli whose own grandparents were close kin to my Indiana grandfather with the dual name, ChasBert Brown Parker.

These wonderful new slants on my people from the past were covered in the two stories I called, Wills, Bequests and Old Photos* and an Accumulation of Cousins*.

The two photos above are my Grandfather ChasBert's Uncle Charlie Brown ,  and his mother and sisters in a rare photo taken possibly not long after the American Civil War.

This photo of my Grandmother Maggie's brother Alf McGowan taken in the sail loft, perhaps in Levuka or possibly in Suva.

These stories from the past are an on-going adventure, old photos emerging from the mists of time, newspaper archives extending their coverage to reveal new sources.  Snippets of family life lived hundreds of years before suddenly springing to life in 2012.


This is the working title of yet another future chapter in my McGowan matriarch’s life.   The only photograph I have of my great grand-mama taken before the 1900’s, fails to reveal the adventurous and passionate young woman she must have been.

When William McGowan, her first love died suddenly in Fiji leaving Geraldine with four young sons and a daughter, all of them under the age of 10 years she soon found that a marriage certificate was no guarantee of probate on a husband’s estate.

Her second husband Robert Foreman with whom she had several more children lived a longer life but will desert his wife for reasons up to now unknown.  If she looks sad and bitter in this portrait then she has every reason to.

William’s death has always been a family mystery. Enter now those two marvellous online archives, New Zealand’s Papers Past, and Australia’s Trove, invaluable sources of clues for aspiring family historians.  A very recent trawl through both sites has revealed some hidden gems:  Clues to Geraldine’s life, a new slant on the life and death of both William McGowan and Robert Foreman... in effect a new chapter in the making.


2012 has also seen daughter Jenny and her husband Chris opt out of a busy business life in Cuenca for a countryside change in the mountains of Ecuador near Paute.

For those of you who have read my ongoing series about Cuenca I promise there will be more written about that vibrant, wonderful part of the world... not least about the Bluefield’s love affair with a couple of cows, one of which fancies itself as a soccer player.



2012 also saw the popular stories about Hillgrove, the New South Wales town that disappeared but gave me a fabulous story about the state of cycling one hundred years ago... and led me into the amazing and touching story about two young men, both pivotal in my life, who one hundred years apart put their lives on the line for Crown and Country...Two Wars Two Charlie Browns*.




For you, my readers, I hope it brings happiness, prosperity and above all peace.

Seems silly doesn’t it that in this modern cyber world where you and I can meet each other on common ground there are still pockets of war.   I note with awe the many countries my blogs are read in, countries both large and small.  If someone in China, Russia, Japan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq, South Korea, Afghanistan or Greece can spare a moment to read a light hearted story written by a grandmother in Australia then surely others in the tormented areas of the world can stop awhile, lay down their arms and take the time to smell the roses.
I can only wish...

With Christmas approaching I decided to lead into the festive season with a quick glance at just some of my favourite stories and photos...


Barney’s great swim has to be my favourite.

Then there was the street wise cow in Ecuador

Australia’s iconic image - amid the fires a helping hand

In Ecuador life is just one big yawn...

...especially in the comfort of a barber’s chair...

Thank goodness the escalator is working...

Now, which wire shouldn’t I touch?

It took an awful lot of hens to lay these eggs, so don’t crack a joke! Er yolk...

Again in Ecuador... Simon says...hands on hips!

Grandfather obviously forgot to tell the poor girl to smile...
The eyes have it.

Keeping up with the soaps...

...and this little piggie went to market...

Where does this end go? Not here please boss.

Cuenca where outer space meets the real world.

And finally finding Christmas on a busy street in Quayaquil


Robyn Mortimer ©2012