It’s been a busy year and though I’ve been retired for coming up to 2.5 years I don’t seem to have learned that whiling away the hours sitting on my backside is acceptable. I still ask myself before bed each night “ what did I achieve today?” And more stupidly, I still need to be challenged.
Today I potted thirty passionfruit plants which I hope to sell to raise funds for Wounded Heroes, attended a Workshop and cooked a roast dinner. My Fundamentals of Art Therapy course was completed in six weeks as opposed to six months and a friend and I are in the midst of getting a project of passion off the ground.And guess what? I’m not one of those “ladies who lunch”.
Without it being planned I’ve read a lot of books by Aussie Authors of late including The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman. Picked up the DVD last week at a charity store starring Michael Fassbender and his wife in real life, Alicia Vikander and featuring Jack Thompson, Bryan Brown, and for those familiar with Tasmania, The Nut at Stanley. It is not a fun movie, but it is eerily atmospheric and does the book justice with themes of love and hate.
With so many Victorians and Sydneysiders spending a motza on real estate in Queensland I did consider selling up relocating to Stanley with a few bob in my pocket. I’ve since been told that any spare change would be spent on heating because northern Tassie is freezing. It does look pretty wild with those winds off Bass Strait. Just watching the movie will have you reaching for your cardigan…..
Swansea is located on the east coast of Tasmania roughly an hour and a half easy drive from the capital, Hobart.
In summer Swansea’s beautiful waterways make it a tourist hub for beach lovers and fishos. However, it should be noted that beaches and beach lovers in Tasmania differ vastly from those on the mainland where we tend to go bronze in the sun despite thirty years of lectures about slip, slop, slapping. In the winter it closes up shop – literally. Many of the restaurants close throughout these months because of the reduced through traffic though personally winter in Tassie is when I love her best. Its the sitting in front of a log fire with a pot of tea or plonk which I really enjoy or being able to walk for three hours without your makeup sliding off your face and dripping like a used dish rag ( * as you do in Queensland in summer).
Swansea sits on Oyster Bay. The land was developed for seasonal crops and grazing stock and a tannery and flour mill were established by the Meredith River. Whaling stations were also set up on nearby islands to enable the export of whale oil. There’s a fishing fleet only thirty minutes away where the popular produce is Scallops. Nothing beats a feed of fresh scallops I tell you…..
Swansea is home to Mutton Birds and Fairy Penguins. (Note to PC Police : They have always been Fairy Penguins and will always be Fairy Penguins, and NOT Little Penguins. Bite Me.) There are also Wombats, Wallabies, Tasmanian Devils and Echidnas. Friends tell me that seals are known to wash up on farmland.
The population these days is less than 1000 and that number includes working dogs.
When visiting Swansea I tend to enjoy the coastal walks after which I reward myself with a coffee at the Bark Mill Bakery ( where black wattle bark was once processed), or Devonshire Tea at the local Cafe/ Art Gallery which also exhibits works by local artisans. Only minutes away is an acclaimed Strawberry Farm and a cool weather Winery.
If you are looking to go nightclubbing give Swansea a miss. She’s an old fashioned township with an old fashioned vibe. Even the General Store, Morris’, has been run by the Morris family for over 100 years. But don’t just drive through Swansea either. Stop for a few days and be prepared to respond to the local’s “Good’ay, how ya going.” Tourists stick out like sore thumbs: they’re the ones without beards.
* It was snowing on Mount Wellington, the back drop of Hobart only two days ago. I have not turned the ceiling fans off in a week.
The Perchance Performers are a newly formed community theatre group that recently performed A Bonnet For Eliza at the local museum. The ticket price included a Devonshire Tea. Think I’de miss an opportunity like that?
25,566 female convicts were transported to Australia between 1788 and 1853. They faced tough lives and uncertain futures at the various convict female factories and until relatively recently, their history was largely unseen and unknown.
In 2007 Dr Christina Henri began a project to commemorate all those women by inviting people to make a bonnet embroidered with the name of a female convict, the name of the ship she arrived on and the date she started her life as a convict on the other side of the world.
Bonnets were made in Workshops across the country under the umbrella the Roses From The Heart Project. In a Workshop in Brisbane in 2010, the great great granddaughter of one such convict woman shared the history of her relative, Eliza Davis, an Irish woman who was to be hanged for the alleged murder of her baby till her sentence was commuted to life in Van Diemen’s Land. She arrived in Australia in 1845. Unable to read or write, she nevertheless proved to be a resilient woman who made a decent and useful life for herself and the nine children she gave birth to in this country.
Another attendee at that Workshop was so taken with the tale that she debuted as a playwright with A Bonnet For Eliza.
Van Diemen’s Land, now known as Tasmania, our island State with the capital city of Hobart, is a beautiful town with its sandstone warehouses, galleries and culinary temptations. From 1803 to 1853, almost 13,000 convict women together with 2,000 children arrived in Hobart and were imprisoned at the Cascades Female Factory (which is still open for tours).
When I visited Hobart last year three women and two children had been immortalised in bronze sculptures on Hobart’s Macquarie Wharf — the arrival point for the convicts. This was undertaken as part of Footsteps Towards Freedom Project by Irish sculptor, Roman Gillespie.
These monuments are extremely sobering, especially in this very swank area of Hobart Harbour where I could only afford a Devonshire Tea!
( If you’re up for something really swank I’de recommend the MQ1 Hotel which has rooms that each tell a different Tasmanian story. Personally, I’m more for some of the old seaman’s haunts on the waterfront and a crisp vino and a seafood chowder sitting on one of the trawlers in the harbour).
Published in 2018 I’ve had my eye on this book for the past couple of months having holidayed in Tasmania, our Island state at the southern end of the mainland, on numerous occasions. The Apple Isle, as she was affectionately known a generation ago when that fruit was its prime produce, was the destination for my honeymoon, and a couple of Wedding Anniversaries. (Yes, we know how well that ended, don’t we…..just don’t lump any blame onto Tassie).
Twenty years down the track I came upon a Tasmanian whose eccentricities matched my own and we’ve been making the annual pilgrimage to the farm on the East Coast of Tassie ever since. I share all this as I feel it to be relevant to my feelings about this memoir.
The author, Fiona Stocker, is Australian by birth but grew up in the UK where she met her partner and they later immigrated to Brisbane, Queensland, in search of a lifestyle with more “space”. Seven years in Brisvegas and the couple realise they’ve merely swapped one city for another, and partner, Oliver, has never adjusted to Qld’s summer humidity. Ollie, mate, you are not on your own – feeling your pain.
They sell up and buy a five acre bush block out of Launceston, northern Tasmania, moving into a house which requires renovations and with septic tank issues. With two toddlers they embark on a totally different way of life, attempting to become self sufficient of sorts, as hobby farmers do.
Fiona shares the trials encountered in their first years on their property : scorpions, snakes, wallabies eating the vegetable patch, chickens that won’t lay, guinea fowl, and neighbours who are three or fourth generation Taswegian farmers – their own special breed, let me tell you. There are mistakes to learn from and celebrations to share, such as mastering the art of lighting a wood fire, cooking wallaby patties, stocking a wood pile, the formation of lasting friendships, and playing midwife to an alpaca.
Fiona admits that her mindset slowly changed to that of a country woman, bartering and swapping produce, considering bush regeneration, growing and cooking the bulk of family meals, and attending stock and farm machinery clearance sales for pleasure.
There are a lot of gentle laughs in this book and I feel those readers unfamiliar with life in rural Tasmania would really enjoy and gain from Fiona’s stories. A Must Read for City Slickers to appreciate their country cousins…..
One of my Tasmanian sisters-in-law butchers her Alpacas when they become recalcitrant and swears by Alpaca chops. The brother-in-law does not serve Turkey at Christmas, but rather Roasted Peacock which are in abundance on his property.
Ten years ago I would have jumped at the opportunity to hobby farm in beautiful Tassie. These days I need the reassurance that I can get a pizza delivered and it’s a cheap taxi ride to visit Uncle Dan, (as in Murphy, the wine cellar).
This book most certainly resonates and I envy the Stocker’s their move and the realignment of their dreams.
I look forward to Fiona’s next book in which she shares how they become Pig Farmers. Personally, I’de love the author to include some recipes as these country women seem to have mastered the art of creating a meal out of absolutely nothing and turning it into something magnificent. Wallaby Patties anyone?