A visit to Castlemaine, Australia

Arriving at Castlemaine railway station

We are back in Australia to see our families.  Arrival this time was spectacular, water in the dams and the grass green, an enormous blessing after so many years of drought and devastation.  The wonderful thing about arriving back here is the sky.  An enormous luminous sky that spans your vision two thirds, the earth low and old and gentle beneath it.  When I look at an Australian sky I am reminded of my freedom, that there is nothing much here to hold me down, force me to comply.  That to me is the Australian spirit, not caught in traditions or the ways you have to do things.  Strange that over recent years, Australian laws have become more and more stringent with cameras everywhere monitoring everything we do, the Australian world becoming safer and safer and less and less expressive.  But the spirit of freedom let Michael and I go from here and so we went to Italy where, had we been born there, we would not have valued the gifts of that country.  In Italy there is great concession to be human and it is not rigid and it is chaotic and our creativity flies here even though the sky is not so big.

Mum in the kitchen (Pat Nunan)

Lovely to see my Mum and Dad.  They truly express the old Australian spirit and I love it when I see them. Eccentric but enormously practical, inventive and intent on a wonderful life incorporating adventure, family and a spiritual connection to the earth.  We talked to them this time about starting a blog, sharing their adventures and tales from their youthful perspective.   Mum has always been the mainstay of our family, strong, solid, an iron grip holding us all together in really tough times when we were little.  Today she runs a big old house in country Victoria with a little weekend rental cottage, Rembrandt’s Retreat.  She cooks and sews and has lessons in Italian, plays tennis and dances every weekend, interspersed between trips into the outback to catch up with Dad on one of his many sabbaticals into the desert. I have never once thought of her as an old lady.  She feels just like she always did, my very capable Mum.

Dad painting (Brian Nunan)

Dad is our dreamer, an artist filling his life with his dreaming.  He has a great gallery of his work next to his studio, an old house that at one time had been a school, from here he meets wonderful people who pop up to see his latest works and to listen to one of his many tales of the desert over the eternal cup of tea.  Every year he takes off into the desert in his little four wheel drive and an old trailer with a single mattress and pop up canopy, simple and non fuss, he leaves his material world behind.  For him, to touch the earth again and look up into the great starry sky, the boabs stark in the light of  the moon, is the point of departure for his connection with the aboriginal spirit of the land.

When we were children, I was the eldest of four and 10 at the time, Dad gave up teaching for good to take on life as an artist.  The dividing point was a trip up to Darwin where we lived for a year in a deserted army concrete block house, across the bay from Darwin and near a small resort called Mandora and an aboriginal settlement called Delisaville.  To buy our groceries we would take the ferry from Mandora for the day to the city.  We did correspondence lessons under Mum’s tutelage and Dad spent his days at the resort painting portraits of tourists and taking commissions for his paintings.  My memories were powerful from this period and have affected lots of my life.  We were very close to nature and I associate the time with freedom and joy with all the cacophony of colour and animal intense experiences enriching my own new intense emotional world of a little girl growing up.

Dad's gallery of his paintings with one of Mike's old sculptures
Dad's gallery of his paintings with some of Shona's old sculptures
Mum's fruit cake ready to go into the oven

Recipe to come,……….. perhaps

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