Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The One Day of the Year

Anzac Day is the one day of the year that I feel even remotely patriotic. It's the one day of the year that I acknowledge that I am Australian. It's the one day of the year that I actually feel proud to be Australian - and saying this is probably sacrilegious, but it's true. Generally, on any normal day, I think I'm English. It's a strange thing, like knowing you're gay, or born into the wrong body, or meant to be an accountant, I resonate with being English. I've always thought that I was English, and I reckon I will always know, with every fibre of my being, that I am a dyed in the wool, cardigan wearing, tea drinking Pom.

Fact is, I'm fifth generation, white Australian. I know this. But then again, I also still think, and will always think, that I am English.

All of the family, all free-settled. not a drop of convict blood in us, came out with the gold rush in the 1850s, or colonised South Australia, looking for a better life in the sunshine about the same time. I'm the progeny of Welsh and Cornish tin miners, with a bit of Cambridgeshire landed gentry thrown into the mix for good measure. My expired passport says I'm Australian, but my genetics tell me I should be roaming the green of Old Blighty, looking for a decent pint or Devonshire Tea, eating Spotted Dick and Toad in the Hole and whinging about the weather.

Anzac Day, is the one and only day of the year that I feel and think I'm Australian. It's strange, but it's the only day that this happens, without fail.

See, in this family of quiet, stoic, hard-working, lower middle class folk, there comes a part of the story that was never celebrated - never acknowledged, never even commented on throughout my childhood, nor my mother's childhood.

Of my grandmother's brothers, Uncle Ol and Uncle Will - men of the cloth, Methodist Ministers - both of them were stretcher bearers at Gallipoli.

Of my grandfather's brothers - Uncle Keith lies in a grave in Egypt - unfortunately he caught typhoid and passed away before making the front.

Uncle Roy, three bar Military Medal recipient, was responsible for keeping the telegraph lines open at Villers Brettoneaux and Fromelles.

My great-grandfather and the other two uncles both went over, but were returned to be a part of the home guard. My grandfather signed up, but was turned down due to poor health at the time - it's interesting to read his records - stating clearly on his recruitment forms "Too skinny."

There is a lot to be remembered. We were very, very lucky in many respects. Other than Uncle Keith, they all came back, physically intact

But these facts were never talked about. Never commemorated. Never talked about. Ask Uncle Roy about what he got his medals for and he would reply that he received them for milking a cow in No-Man's Land. Reading his war record tells of a man of valour, courage, tenacity and strength of levels most of us could never even dream of.

The horrors these so seeming ordinary men must have see is quite beyond me.

I can only feel proud to be related to these men, remember their service, salute their courage and hope and pray that nobody has to send their children off to war ever again.


On a brighter note, today is the Units' birthday party. Chance and Lance are turning two next week and being a day off, Blarney and Barney are throwing them a party.

And being Aunty Panders, I'm in charge of the birthday cakes.

I had this discussion with Blarney last year. She said that she would buy them a cake, but I said I'd get in there and make them one - each. They are twins after all, they need one each.

Blarney doesn't quite get this, but I really like baking - and I sort of want to start a bit of a tradition.

Maybe it's that in my not that happy childhood, the one thing I do remember is that my mother would always make me a birthday cake with smarties on top, and that I've always associated having such a cake with being loved. After all, how often does somebody get off their bum and make you a birthday cake? Thinking about it, I think about how often somebody just makes me dinner or a cup of tea - I love when people cook for me - it happens so rarely in this busy life we live, whien it does happen it's a joy - can be something as little as beans on toast. I love it when somebody makes me food.

Anyway, for the last two nights, I've been in the kitchen being rather industrious. Up to my armpits in flour, butter, cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla essence... My little food processor has been working overtime - because, being twins, they need a cake each, so there are no arguments. This is my little act of aunty devotion.

I know it would be easier to go to the shop, but I like doing this. Knowing that my chances of ever being a mother are slipping away with ever minute that passes, it's nice to have people to do this for. It's cool to think that maybe in ten years time these two will be rolling their eyes as a chocolate cake with raspberry jam filling, chocolate icing and smarties on top.

Besides, I was raised to be a housewife - taught to bake and knit and crochet and cook and clean and iron from a young age, because, when I was brought up, women were teachers and nurses and secretaries and home makers - things were starting to change, but I reckon it was imagined when I was born that I would get married and have kids and be the mother of teenagers by the time I was forty. It's not the case, and that is fine, but it's cool to think that I was given some of these home making skills, not that anybody meeting me now would think I possess them.

Thankfully things have changed, but even so, it's nice that these skills have been deeply ingrained get an airing every so often.

Anyways, last year the boys got a dinosaur cake.

This year, being car mad, they each got a car cake. Only one, as they weren't really aware of what was going on back then. This year is different - one a piece - it's the way it's got to be.

So, cake for Unit One. (Chance or Lance, take your pick)

And a cake for Unit Two (they're interchangeable)
And a round of cupcakes just in case enough sugar and butter haven't been had... and I will admit to cheating and using a packet job here - but generally, I make my cakes from scratch.
And I feel pretty good.

Just hope they like them.


Kath said...

Two aspects to comment on here:

1) ANZAC day - Mum still has the postcards that Jack Russell (yes, his real name) sent to her mother, his much-younger sister Kathleen, from various spots during WW1. He was tall but only fifteen when he joined up and returned back to Oz and never said a word about his experiences.

2) Cakes are so colourful - my choice is the first one. Don't know why, but my instant reaction was 'Ooooh yes.' Baking is time consuming but always very satisfying - I cooked a cake for the 11-turning-12 year old who visited us last week and tried my hand at crossless hot cross buns last week. Both had varying levels of success but were genuinely appreciated.

Pandora Behr said...

It's amazing to think that that's how it was back then - nothing was spoken of.

As for the cakes - did something right as NOTHING was left at the end of the afternoon - all gone - cup cakes too.

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

Yes - we in the Northern Hemisphere have heard of ANZAC Day - and you are quite right to feel proud - and Australian.

I love your country, actually - I regard Australians as Brits with funny accents. You have the same outlook on life and the same sense of humour.

And for all the Pommy bashing that goes on, there is an equal amount of Aussie bashing too - and the good news is that it is all in jest (at least from my perspective anyway).

I should make an effort to travel Down Under again - when I can get the time and the money of course.




Anonymous said...

LOL, they're only 2 now, but as they get a bit older, you will have to have EXACTLY the same number of candies on each cake, y'know... Otherwise, "he got more than me!" will begin, and never end. (to which you will respond, of course, "'I', 'I'!!! He got more than 'I' ...TALK RIGHT, Yo!" LOL)

I enjoyed reading your blog, can't for the life of me remember how I stumbled upon it! I'll bookmark you and read more!