Trying to Keep Warm – a memoir scrap

June 4, 2019 at 3:28 pm | Posted in 1950s, 1960s, Australia, England, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Migration, Ways of Living | 14 Comments
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Before we came from England to Australia in 1954, we lived in a two-up, two-down in a row of terrace houses. These were built of stone, which made for quite good insulation in a Lancashire winter. We also had piped gas heating, an upgrade from the original coal fireplace. We could keep warm there, as well as dry the washing on rails that could be lowered to load then raised to get the benefit of the heat below the ceiling.

Our clothing and footwear were also designed to keep out the cold when we went outdoors in the ice and snow and the cold wind and rain. Although we girls had to wear dresses, I remember also wearing button-up soft leather leggings, woollen coats, gloves and socks and leather shoes.

In Australia, we lived for a couple of years in a tiny caravan before graduating to a tiny three-roomed cottage that Dad gradually added more rooms to. The cottage was constructed of asbestos fibro and weatherboard. It, like the caravan, was not insulated from either hot or cold.

Linda Confirmation.1958-350

Me on my confirmation day outside our house, 1958

For the first year or two, we didn’t have to wear heavy clothing for winter and we were rarely cold. However, as we acclimatized to the milder climate, we started to feel the cold of winter much more. We no longer had the thick jumpers, coats and leggings we had worn in England, nor did we have the warm gas heating we’d been used to there. Even more,  the wooden floorboards and the lack of insulation in the thin walls and ceilings allowed the cold to penetrate into every part of our home. It was darned cold, and there was nowhere to put in a coal or wood stove.

My parents did purchase a Fyreside kerosene heater, the name of which implied more heat than it actually produced. In the back of the heater, under the cover, was a thick glass bottle with a wire handle to lift it out with. You had to fill the bottle with kerosene from a tin you’d get filled up at the petrol station. You had to put the bottle in upside down, so that the kero would feed through to wick at the front of the heater You’d light the wick, then place the round piece with the coil in it on top. The coil would heat up and glow red. The heat thus generated would be reflected into the room by the shiny metal reflector behind the coil. All that was in theory of course.

The smell of the kerosene itself was bad enough, but once it was lit, the heater often generated smoke and fumes that would either make you feel ill or make your eyes sting. I’m sure it couldn’t have been very healthy, especially in an enclosed space. If the kerosene ran out and the wick went out, you had to wait until the heater cooled before re-filling the bottle (if you had some kero on hand), by which time the any warmth had been sucked out of the air.

Fyreside heater 1950-60s crop

The living room where the heater sat and kitchen were open to each other, so the area (even though not large) was too much to heat and anyway, much of the heat went up to the ceiling which had no insulation. The only way to feel any warmth was to stand right in front of it – and then it would burn your legs, but leave the rest of you cold. But there were at least six of us, and sometimes up to twelve people living in the house, so the kids didn’t get to stand that close. We still had to wear warm clothing and even coats inside.

The heater always had to be turned off at night, and any heat it had generated hadn’t reached our closed-off bedroom. I remember many a time going to bed with only two old, thin wool ex-army blankets and no upper sheet to cover me. I would shiver and never seem able to get warm. My brother and two sisters were the same. Then we would find anything we could to cover ourselves more – usually there was only our not-very-thick coat. We got used to being cold. Eventually, Mum could afford chenille bedspreads for us all.

I suppose the heater did make a difference, enough at least to stop us freezing, but I remember having chilblains on my toes for most of every winter. These heaters couldn’t be called safe, and caused quite a few house fires if left burning without supervision or if drying clothes were too close to the heater. Mum was always scared that would happen, so she only lit it when absolutely necessary.

With the cost of electric heating, these kero heaters were the cheapest source of warmth available at the time. Many people my age now recall them and their smell with a mixture of horror and nostalgia.

 

What kind of heating did you have when you were growing up?

 

(c) Linda Visman

 

 

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Patterns in Bark

March 3, 2014 at 6:42 pm | Posted in Australia, Gardens, Nature, Tourism, Travel, Writing | 1 Comment
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I was at Parramatta Park again recently and went for my usual wanders in between periods of writing at the picnic tables.

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One of the things I love about the park is the trees there. I love trees anywhere, actually.

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This time however, I looked at them more closely, and saw, in a relatively small area, a wide range of species with very different bark.

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I didn’t know many of the species, though I am sure anyone familiar with Australian trees would be able to identify many of these from their bark.DSCF7982 (2) (960x1280)

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One of my favourite tree barks is that of the paperbark tree (various types of melaleuca). When I was younger, I often used to see pictures made from bark. The paperbark lends itself to that very well, as its bark peels off in soft papery sheets. Last year, after the death of my father, I took possession of two my late mother had hanging on the wall.

Melaleuca, paperbark tree

Melaleuca, paperbark tree

I found a stand of trees with an unusual and rough bark that I hadn’t noticed before, and had to include a photo here, as it is quite dramatic.

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A tree with a very smooth bark rounds off the list, though there were several others I haven’t included here.

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I love these different patterns, as well as their texture, and am constantly amazed at the variety that Nature displays.

 

What are the trees like where you live? Is there a good variety, or do the climate and geography limit what grows there?

(c) Linda Visman

Taking Shelter

January 28, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Posted in Australia, Nature | 8 Comments
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It has been raining here for two days as the remnants of Cyclone Oswald reach to the southern areas of eastern Australia. It will get worse, with stronger winds added to the rain. We will be fine where we are, but others won’t be as lucky.

There are thousands of people in Queensland and in northern NSW who are having it very tough at present. Many have been flooded from their homes and businesses. There have been deaths usually as people try to cross through swollen creeks and flooded causeways. (Some folk never learn).

States of emergency have been declared in some areas, and all emergency services are flat out helping those who are in trouble. Then they get some idiot like the one here.

As the rain falls and the wind blows, we look out onto our front verandah and see that other creatures are affected by the weather too. Our verandah always becomes a refuge for birds trying to get out of the rain, especially rainbow lorikeets.

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 We also have the ubiquitous noisy miners which, for once don’t gang up against the other birds. They all look rather forlorn at times like this

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Today, I also managed to photograph a couple of the magpies that decided to take shelter there too. They don’t often come this high (the verandah is at second-storey level on our sloping block). They spend most of their time hunting for bugs and other creatures in their territory, which includes the lawns of other houses within an area of about a hundred metres radius of us.

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I hope that the people affected by the floods are able to find shelter – just as these birds have done.

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© Linda Visman

28th January 2013

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