My story of Ruth

My story of Ruth

25 years ago I had a restaurant, a partner and a son.
All of those three things weren’t planned, but my daughter was.
I made a decision when my son was very young that he should have a sibling, and in hindsight, having 2 children made me into a better mother. One child was a handbag, 2 children was a family.

So I planned my second child, and the day I found out I was having her was the day I said good bye to her father, who was heading off to the unknown of fishing life in Bass Strait.

I had a restaurant in East Brisbane from when my son was 4 months old, and I kept it until Ruth was born 2 1/2 years later. I worked right until I was 8 months pregnant when I felt that I might fall over if I worked another day.
I remember the day I went in for my final examination at the hospital. I took my 2 and 1/2 yr old with me, who sat up on the bed while I had an internal examination, wanting to press all of the buttons. Most of these visits were on my own while their father was at Sea.
The doctor told me that I was a week overdue (had been 2.5 weeks over with the first one) he then told me of a long and arduous procedure that he wanted me to undergo to have this baby. My heart fell, I was in real fear of the public health system so told him I would call my Obstetrician. He kind of poo-pooed me then. So I phoned Dr Baer, my wonderful doctor who had saved the life of my son. He said that, knowing me, and my uterus !, that would all be a waste of time , and that I should request a cesarean.
I went back to the public health doctor with this advice ‘ my obstetrician said no, I want to have a Cesarean. He kind of laughed and asked me who had given me that advice. ‘Dr Baer, ‘ I said. At which point he went silent, and agreed with my request. So wonderful to have my super doctor on my side.

So I drove home, on my own, with my son. I phoned my family and said that I had to go to the hospital straight away, and could they pick up Alex and look after him while I went in to have the baby.
I don’t remember much that happened then, I guess people stepped up and helped me. The next thing I remember is that I was in the delivery suite, with my mother, who I had asked to be with me for the birth.
Things went wrong from there.
2 years before, I had a cesarean with Dr Baer, where I was conscious and listening to him talking through his decisions with a young doctor. I had a bit of science background, so had been taking all of this in.
At this delivery, the anaesthetist had checked with me a number of times if I was feeling the ICE on my stomach as a FEATHER. I continually said NO, it feels coldĀ  and wet. I knew how it was supposed to feel, so was feeling anxious.
Although I told them a few times that I could still wiggle my toes (not usual) they went ahead, telling me that the anaesthetic would kick in before the procedure started.
In a few moments, the doctor walked in, barely introduced himself , and cut me open. I grabbed the nurses arm , quite aggressively, and said ‘ I felt everything!’
In a panic mum was dragged from the room, the anaesthetist (clearly a junior) was hustled out, and I was made unconscious with a general anaesthetic.
In what felt like a moment, I woke up in the blaring lights of recovery to my sister and friend standing over me telling me that I had a daughter. I can’t tell you how beautiful those words sounded. Although I was very prepared to have a football team of boys, secretly I had wanted a girl.
I remember then that Diana asked me if I wanted to see her. I didn’t realise at the time that she had been taken away. Of course, I replied.
‘The mother wants the baby’ was the announcement across recovery! And my tiny baby was brought to me. Every memory of that moment is burnt into my mind (photos help) but I have such a clear recollection of holding this small beautiful perfect child. She was a little red, but that was a reaction to pethidine, which I demanded I be taken off.

So I had a second baby, and like a know-it-all arrogant parent, I thought I could do it with my eyes shut, just a repeat of number one. I was wrong.

But let’s first revisit how she found her name.
For about 3 days I bandied a few names around my visitors and family. I think that as I was choosing this one on my own, that I needed the input of those close to me , not entirely sure why. I remember my aunt and uncle visiting, about day 2, and Don said that he could happily call her Bubba for a few months yet with no trouble. It didn’t affect me, I wanted her to have her name.
As visitors came in I would say ‘ I am thinking of Nina, what do you think of that?’ And watch their faces kind of curl up.
Then one day, out of the blue, I thought of my middle name. I had considered it way back when I was first pregnant, as it was the name mum wanted me to have. But I dismissed it immediately , not wanting her to have my name. But then I looked at her, such a small face, so dark haired, so serious, so quiet, and I called her Ruth. Not religious, but Ruth was a wonderful person in the Old Testament stories .
Mum kind of got all teary when I told her. Everyone was just fine that I hadn’t gone through with my threats of Doris (after her grandmother) or Krista (after her father).
So Ruth Christiana was finally named.

And all of my mothering skills went out the window.
Ruth was littler than Alex, so fed differently. She loved routine, she loved sleep. I think she still does.
I remember one day Marina came to visit me . I had days of stress trying to get her to sleep late afternoon . I had walked her up and down the road with Alex (remembering that I was alone at home with a 2.5 year old) we didn’t get home cooked meals often as that was the time that it was taking to walk Ruthie off to sleep, sometimes we walked to KFC and back just to find food.
So this day, Marina, my sister with lots of baby experience, came to visit.
Help me, I said. I have walked her, fed her, everything, but she isn’t sleeping.
Marina took Ruth, said ‘is she fed, is she changed?’ I nodded. ‘So let’s put her to bed’ whereby she bundled her and popped her in the cot and shut the door. The little beast went right off to sleep. Over time I realised that Ruth just loved to go to sleep, to bed, without fuss. Thank goodness for sisters.

Ruth was a very shy small child. My experience with infants was limited to that of my son. I had never baby sat, was not interested in small kids until having my own. Alex was a bold friendly child, so of course I started to treat Ruthie the same. It didn’t last long
Ruth depended on her brother for everything. From bathing, to play, to sleep, they were inseparable. She was his delightful sweet shadow that cursed him but entertained him day and night.
There isn’t a photo of them in their infancy where they are without the other. It wasn’t for some years when he would say ‘she’s annoying’ and she would say ‘ he’s mean’ and even those years were few, for once they grew up, they were once again like the twins.

So Ruthie was a very sweet small child, whose favourite place was under my skirt. At least I could take her for cappuccino outings and she would just sit on the stool, and never roam, so unlike her brother, who led me on many a chase.
I didn’t realise for some years that a major part of her shyness was her very poor eyesight. She couldn’t see beyond a couple of metres, so of course she was wary of the big world that she couldn’t see. It would take 7 years before she was properly diagnosed, and didn’t have to sit a meter away from the TV with her eyes all scrunched up trying to focus on the program.

So this is the end of one version of my beautiful daughter Ruth. The baby that I planned, the baby that I fought so hard not to lose , and the baby that still has the most ardent passionate approach to life. I love her and have loved every moment of her since I decided I wanted her to come.

I hope that she finds something in this story that she didn’t know. I have plenty more of these to come.

Ruth at 4- Coolum Beach16651264_10154896218670871_595951374_o


Ruths baby Isak, 2 weeks old16299654_10208951797971938_1524381486872376240_o


Women in my life

I don’t know what was the first memory of the women. There were so many years that I have decided to lock away, I think I can get back to about 4 years old.

But my Auntie Chris wasn’t a memory, she was an event. Mum was always responsible, it was a role she took on to be there for her little sister Chris from the age of 12. Chris was a great mum, but with different sets of rules raising boys, and certainly different sets of rules for me.

There was the time in Iluka, when Evan and I had decided to ‘use’ all of her makeup. It was more like painting or cooking with makeup rather than applying it to our faces. When it hit me what we had done and the mess we had made…powder, creams, potions, colours…I was terrified. I had never touched my own mothers dressing table, let alone her makeup. But Chris found us, two small , painted urchins in a fog of dusting powder, laughed and told us to go out and play, she would fix it up.

She fixed up a lot of things.

When we eventually left the thief who had stolen the place of our father, 1975, and we were kind of in hiding. Mum had taken us all from the house, the mansion, and from friend to friend , finally to a motel in the dead of night. And Chris flew down from Brisbane.

She loved her sister without question, and was probably just waiting for this day. They all knew he wasn’t right. After days of hiding, not going to school, just waiting in the event that he found us, Chris burst into the motel in all her beautiful colour, and made it all right. There was hours of late night conversations, too many cigarettes and the appropriate amount of whiskey, but she made us feel better. And she took us all back to Queensland. Would be the last time I was ever in Canberra.

Chris then became my friend again, sharing stories of my childhood that mum didn’t want to remember. All of those stories meant remembering my father, and that was too painful for mum. Safer to lock all of that away. She told me how, when my father died, and I was two years old, one sister was ill and the other was just born, I kind of adopted Chris and her home. Apparently I would leave home, and waddle down the garden path, through the fence, to her house, to hang out. It was no surprise that we became partners in crime again once I was old enough, and we were geographically close again.

I never really understood what a wonderful artist she was. I always saw the drawings and paintings, she even drew me, but it was only after she was gone, with her whole body of work , that I could really admire the depth of her talent.

We always knew that she was the actress before having babies, such a beautiful young woman. And beautiful always.

I miss you Christine Hassall, but not too much because you are always with me. I am blessed to have the women that I have in my life.


Saturday vege pies/pasties

This is a great one when you may not quite have a meal in the fridge, but you do have puff pastry.

And also excellent for when everyone in the house is eating at different times.


Puff pastry- we buy ours frozen, and it’s vegan friendly

2 onions


Fresh chilli- finely chopped, seeds optional

200g mushrooms

4 carrots

1 sweet potato

200 ml passata 

1 tin brown lentils, 1 tin red kidney

Soy, oregano, salt, pepper, vege stock to taste

1. Make a small pot of coffee, it is Saturday, and turn on some music

2. Fry onions and garlic, (lid on, so that it sweats) with salt, pepper, oregano until very soft, almost caramelised

3. Add finely chopped vegetables, (these can be anything that you like, see list above, but can include peas, beans, whatever is left over in your fridge) 

4. Add everything else, and a little water extra so that the potatoes will cook. I added the whole fresh chilli last, as it’s cooler that way, but still adds zing. If you add it to the onions it will be hotter.

5. Allow to cook until potatoes are soft enough to eat, and most of the liquid has gone. I sometimes add a handful of oats at the end to help absorption. And they are super food.

6. Cool right down before you make pasties/pie – it is much easier to manage on the pastry when it’s cold- drink coffee, change record

So I am not the best pie maker in the world, and that is why this is such a good recipe, you will all be much better than I. 

If you are going to make a large pie, I love having pastry top and bottom, so follow the instructions on the packet, and lightly cook the lower base (grease pie tray first – avoid baking paper as it could stick to the food) 

We made pasties from this recipe, half a sheet of puff pastry per pastie, simple triangles. Use cold, not fully defrosted pastry as it’s difficult to manipulate, and cold filling.

Bake according to the packet directions, usually very hot oven for about 15 minutes for a small pastie, or until nice and brown on top.

…story to come

Looking for Emma

Part 2

(Part 1 was the easy road from Brisbane to Stanthorpe , skipped here for now) 

The road to Dungog via a winery and Tamworth

My big adventure was delayed two nights with a stopover with Mark Ravenscroft, sleeping in the Cellar Door, tasting almost all of his wines (day 1, we only tasted a couple day 2) cooking vegan dinners and discovering the winery clinging to the highest point of the range. Apparently when I looked west I could see Perth.

So it was day 3 that I was finally alone on the leg to Armidale. 

So many doubts, so many questions. Of all the places I could go on a trip, I immediately had regrets that 3 weeks of alone, 3 weeks of driving , isolated, camping, was possibly the worst I could have made. So I turned on the radio.

Not sure if was fate, but Richard Fidler talking to Tim Cope (on the trail of Genghis Khan with just a dog and 3 horses) was the balm I needed. ‘Stop being such a baby’ echoed a little through my mind. But the story lasted most of the first leg. His challenges, joys, unexpected highs, delight of the people he met, was precisely the drug I needed to move forward. 

The radio became my good friend on this journey. Days spent listening to triplej, forever excited each time Matt Corby was played, often featuring songs by my son Alex. Some hours were spent without ABC radio, so lessons were had in commercial radio once more, and the joy of community radio. Strange and interesting DJs playing their favourite songs that might include show tunes, as well as Led Zeppelin, but good always for some out loud laughing while driving. So my stock of CDs from the Old Museum (artists who had visited) were still played, but stories and podcasts became a preference some days for the long roads. And other days I just preferred the sound of the road, the wheels, the trees, wind or birds.

Part 3

Armidale and the plains beyond

My mother and father became teachers at the Armidale Teachers College back in the early 1950s, mum is a little blurry on the date.

Finding doors open, and signs to different parts of a music college, I wandered unhindered through the original College high on the hill looking over the pretty green city of Armidale. I wondered about the memories that mum might have if she could return. In the afternoon I found Smith House, just a couple of City blocks closer to town, across from a cathedral and large city park. this was still an accommodation house, possibly also for backpackers but certainly still for university students. It was very shabby, the manager told me to go anywhere I wanted when I explained my reason for taking photos. The dining room was particularly over glamorous but faded, jaded, like a Hollywood princess clinging in to her celluloid. 

When I drove out after a few nights camping the map showed a back road past parks, waterfalls and a heritage pastoral chapel.  It neglected to mention that it was corrugated dust gravel road the entire journey. HOwever, once again, a small challenge, and accomplishment. 

It wasn’t far along until the plateau was left behind, and a steep, wide road down the range was ahead. This was the Moonbi range. I guess this was the area that Mabel Forest wrote about in Moth of Moonbi. Chauvel set the 1925 film in Cunninghams Gap and Warwick area where his family had land and horses. 

road trip

12 Feb

she was 17
she had watched her father push her mother from the sulky and break her head on the ground
she had yelled at the father and his female friend
they had threatened her with the stockwhip
she watched her mother cry, nurse the baby, then lie down and die
she had told the police
they had taken her statement
she had six younger ones to mind as they took her father away
the baby was six months old, lillian they had called her, she must never know
she stood with all the family as they buried emma in the soil
they all looked at her, they all wanted her to forgive
she cried when they told her that she had to change her words
she wept when she knew that he would never change his ways
she saved him, and he left anyway
a strange woman became their mother, and fatherless she would keep lillian in the dark

Found this one today, written for Lillian and Emma Laura, her mother


9 Feb

one week till I leave

planning is tricky, the balance between ‘ i will just let the road determine my destination…’ and making sure that i have a bed at night

doing some research, finding destinations about 2-3 hours apart (for that morning and afternoon drive with lots and lots of wandering in between) has led me to a few grey nomad sites and Burning Mountain Nature Reserve. Its a slow burning coal seam near the New England Hwy, with free camping.

so this is the last blog before I leave, will start a new page, ‘cabinet of wonders’ to visually illustrate my journey


Underground Coal Seam, Burning Mountain Nature Reserve
Underground Coal Seam, Burning Mountain Nature Reserve
Burning Mountain Nature Reserve
Burning Mountain Nature Reserve

==30 Jan

road trip starting on February 15th, after Tibetan new year feb 13th.

first stopover will be Ravenscroft Winery in Stanthorpe

dont see any writing happening there, so let’s hope the next three weeks, Internet-free (it’s like giving up the smokes or grog isn’t it?) will give real time to writing. And real discipline to writing.

there’s always an excuse, it’s work, it’s kids, it’s the lawn mowing.

the excuses won’t hold on the road. So it’s writing every day.

the challenge then is to focus, have a number of pretty good stories started, and a couple of ideas for the new ones.

lets hope it reveals itself on the way

ps , have bought a new Bluetooth keyboard for the iPad!

==Some time in 2015

going on a road trip in february

over the years I have written stories based on true events

I need to be placed in the space to continue these stories

so this blog is about that road trip

apart from the obvious amazing destinations to set up my tent and write, I plan to spend a bit of extended time in Bylong and Dungog.
Phoebe’s story is based in Dungog, the death of her mother , Emma , is below.
Bylong is another story, and its important for me to visit this before the coal mines take over.