Christmas Time is here again! Happy Christmas Ryan and Amy! and Ollie!!

I’m  one and a bit years from receiving my OBE (over bloody eighty) award so I’m getting close to those pearly gates,  and expecting some entry barriers. . What was my password??

havens door - photobucket com


Is Christmas a foretaste of what it might be like up there??

I love bonding with family on Christmas Day!

This is how father and son kept in touch after last year’s Christmas dinner. . Riveting stuff!!


A time for kissies and cuddles! This is Amy being taken for a free ride by our eldest grandson Ryan Harker.



Amy’s latest pet is Oliver, her golliwog dog with ginger eyebrow’s and moustache.



Ryan prefers this prickly little customer!



Ryan has a surprise embrace by Amy’s affectionate skeleton. Amy is studying Medicine.



Ryan and Amy send their customary Maori-emulating Christmas greetings to all their loved ones! They are off to see you all with Amy the careful driver.



I can scarcely recall life back then but this is how our Susan, Alison and baby Paul were once a few Christmases ago! Like nearly 50!

Happy Christmas to all our friends, and to our enemies too!!

Children PNG

When will welfare bureaucracy learn to listen to the Grandmas??

This is a news report that has deeply shocked South Australians. She was a gorgeous four year old, living in absolute squalor, neglected by her drug addicted mother, often locked in her room to scream her heart out, and forced to repeatedly ride a motor-cycle she could not control until she crashed, for the amusement of others.

The most outrageous aspect of her death three years ago from head injuries is that it was entirely preventable, if only the government agency responsible for her welfare, Families SA, had taken notice of requests for intervention on more than 20 occasions by her concerned grandmother.

Unfortunately such incidents of family wishes being ignored are all too common. Not just by family welfare departments, but often also by those responsible for the difficult management of mental illness.

This story is presented in these pages in the hope that the officious, we know best, culture of bureaucracy will become more consultative.

Pop-Star Peter Dixon

Pop-Star was his grandsons’ pejorative nickname for him. The officially approved grand-parenting title “Poppy” they discarded in favour of something much more colourful, and ludicrous.

But Pop-Star can boast of a true Pop-Star in his family circle in the person of his cousin Robert (and Heather) Dixon’s son Peter. I’m puzzled where the musical genes in his chromosomal make-up came from.

Peter is perhaps an unlikely achiever in the competitive world of popular Country and Western style music, and the music of religious faith and belief. A blend of talent, light fun music, and quiet reflective sounds..

He has none of the flamboyant, brash demeanour one might associate with a Pop-Star. He is thoughtful, modest, sensitive, and softly spoken (like his Dad and Pop-Star). His music too is similarly soft and melodious. You must see him in person to appreciate his delicate harmonies, the subtle variations in pitch, and his gently rhythmical and evocative lyrics, to appreciate how moving his performance can be. Moments of cascading sound, lilting interludes, and sometimes quiet endings with single clean pure notes caressing one’s ears. Recordings fail to create the moods and atmosphere of a live performance.

To Pop-Stars shame, he had never heard a Peter Dixon performance before. This changed when Peter, without his full band and accompanied only by a keyboard, came to Adelaide for an extended weekend of performances. The old-couple travelled down from Mount Barker in the Adelaide Hills for a sacred concert Friday August 9 in the Grove Adventist Church Hall at Salisbury hoping to catch up with him after several years.

It must be a daunting task to entertain an audience as a solo act continuously for an hour and a half (and longer). But entertain and entrance he did, with his expressive voice and blending guitar. It was a family audience. One might have expected the children to become restive during such a long performance. Without exception they were rapt, and responsive, listening to every word and note. Even Pop-Star didn’t fall asleep. There were no words of admonition, no tedious sermonizing. His sounds created the environment and touched the emotions that words couldn’t. Speaking in a brief introduction before each item, Peter spoke from his own experiences, with conviction, and humour touching issues of concern to all.

Concert ended, supper followed. Pop-Star wanted to tell everyone he met that the star of the evening was his cousin’s son. He could scarcely contain his pride. Eventually when other listeners had had opportunity to comment to Peter on the enjoyable evening, the old-couple gained his attention, and enquired after his lovely wife Barbara, and the two captivating girls, Renée and Ruby.

Should the opportunity present, make a point of listening to the Peter Dixon Band. Alternatively get some insight into what he is about with his music, encouraging us to pay more attention to the things that are important in life, from the videos on U Tube.


Pop-Star Peter









It’s gone..

Pop-Star appreciates short stories that leave him with unanswered questions at the end, longing for a sequel, stories that hint at important issues without necessarily enunciating them, and do not tell everything about the leading characters.

“It’s gone” is such a tale. An unusual one you must agree. How many stories have you read about a five-year old who swallows a whole string of beads?? It is more poignant than humorous, more thought-provoking than entertaining.

Pop-Star’s heart went out to the patient little Gracie removed for so long from her family; she was an inpatient in a Crippled Children’s Home from the age of four until she was six. She had a serious disabling illness which Pop-Star thinks may have been severe juvenile rheumatoid arthritis or Still’s disease. For two whole years she felt lonely and bereft of family love and support.

Adults may not understand her dilemma and her strange response, which she hoped would bring her family kudos. She did not think the Matron would consider her ungrateful. Although grown-ups might find her action totally incomprehensible they should remember that they too face similar tortuous decisions in their lives.

How do they resolve the internal conflict between self-indulgence and pleasure on one hand, and a wish to conform to perhaps ultra-conservative expectations placed by family, and community, religious or otherwise?

Written by Mary Gabb, do read it  carefully before seeing if you agree with Pop-Star’s comments.

IT’S GONE….but not forgotten!

Gracie stroked the string of beads in her small hands. They were very beautiful. Yesterday was her birthday and Matron had a special birthday dinner prepared just for her in her private rooms. As Gracie was wheeled into the room she could see the dinner table set beautifully for two with serviettes, a pretty cloth and shining silverware. The savoury aroma of the meal filled the small room. Standing on the cover of one dinner plate stood a bare naked Kewpie doll, with arms outstretched. And a small parcel wrapped in birthday paper tied with pretty ribbon lay beside it. Gracie was nervous even though matron had discarded her billowing white veil, but curious about the contents of the parcel. “Yes, you can open it; it is your birthday present from me because now you are five”. The child untied the pink ribbon and slowly removed the wrapping paper, revealing an exquisite string of ruby red beads. She was overwhelmed with both its beauty and its sinfulness. She had never had any jewellery of any kind before; personal adornment was frowned on in her family. And Gracie had slept that night with the treasured string of beads within reach under her pillow.
Bed rest had been the latest treatment ordered for Gracie until the swollen painful joints had settled, and now after all else had failed, she was here in the Crippled Children’s home and she had no idea how long she would be here. The days seemed endless with the same institutional routine every day: meals on trays, bed baths, teeth cleaning with peroxide water from chipped enamel mugs, bread and jam for lunch, visitors on Saturdays and Sundays. Home was many miles away, so Gracie rarely had visitors. Life away from big brothers and a busy household was very tedious and the days merged one into another until she did not know how long she had been here. She tried not to mind but in case they forgot her, she kept up a steady flow of laboriously written and misspelled letters to her family at home.
Gracie had let go of the beads for scarcely a moment since she had received the gift from Matron. She held them up to the light and when she looked through them everything was glowing red. As she twisted them in the sun she discovered that the smooth cut surfaces would send bright rays of pink light on to her book. Gazing at them, she wondered if they were real rubies. She knew about rubies. Snow White’s lips were ruby red, and Aladdin’s cave was full of rubies. Gracie’s only diversion in this place was stories in fairy tale books that she could now read by herself. The books here were different; at home she had been read to regularly but only from Bible story books, and true stories. ‘What Smoking did for John’, and ‘Matilda Who told lies and was burned to death’ were her Mother’s only concession to fiction. She knew ‘Matilda Who Told Lies’ off by heart. She loved the rhyming rhythmic cautionary tales, and shuddered at the underlying messages.
Gracie looked at the string of beads in her hands, they were still there; they were real and it was not a dream. She poured the string of beads from hand to hand, fascinated by the sound they made as they chinked together, she loved the sensation of running them through her hands. She did not want to put them on, she just wanted to look at them and touch them. But soon there was a glassy clink in her bath-chair day bed. She examined the string of beads and could see that the thread had come adrift at one end. One of the precious stones had fallen off. Holding the string carefully so that the others would not come off she searched for the missing bead, and found it tucked under her leg. It was the smallest one at the end of the graded strings of beads. She popped the stray bead into her mouth so that she wouldn’t lose it. Then she tried to tie off the loose end of the broken thread, but it was too difficult for her small fingers. Concentrating on the job in hand, she accidentally gulped and smallest bead went down.
The string still too short for her to tie so she removed another bead a bit larger than the first. It came off the string easily and went into her mouth. I wonder if I could swallow another one she thought. She looked around to see if anyone was watching. No one was paying any attention to her and it was dead easy. She needed the string to be longer so that she could fasten it, so with increasing speed, bead after bead went into her mouth and was quickly gulped down. But the beads were getting bigger now and she could feel the sharp faceted edges scraping the inside of her throat. The three largest beads in the middle of the necklace looked daunting, and she paused. She wondered if she should stop, but took a deep breath and swallowed the second largest. It hurt, but it did go down. She held the biggest bead in her hand, she couldn’t stop now. It was a challenge impossible to resist. She took a huge breath, gulped…and the largest beautiful bead began its painful descent, almost sticking half-way. It hurt all the way down. Her eyes watered and she was scared. In a little while the pain eased and she looked at the remainder of the beautiful string of beads in her hand. She wondered how she could explain the missing beads.
And so it was that the remainder of the beautiful string of beads quietly and quickly followed their fellows to the same destination. Gracie felt satisfied and pleased with her success. She didn’t know anyone else who could swallow a whole string of beads. Her older brother Ted would be impressed if he knew. But while she couldn’t help feeling sad at the loss of her beautiful beads, she hoped that God would be pleased. The necklace had disappeared, it had gone. But her ruby red beads were never forgotten.


Pop-Star’s parting comment.

You have heard of the divine injunction to children to honour their father and mother. For Pop-Star there is a reverse obligation too.

“Honour your children. They may be surprisingly smart even although they need your guidance and protection in a challenging world. One-day you may be grateful to be on the receiving end”.



Book Review – “The House of Fiction” by Susan Swingler.

Elizabeth Jolley

Elizabeth Jolley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The House of Fiction” by Susan Swingler

Leonard, Susan, and Elizabeth Jolley

MPS (Mrs Pop-Star) is a regular listener to Richard Fidler‘s superb ABC interview program “Conversations” and heard Susan Swingler interviewed recently. Pop-Star happened to be within ear-shot, and became engrossed in her story too. What he heard whet his appetite to read her book. Within a few minutes, he had purchased and down-loaded it from Amazon to his new Paperwhite Kindle, and started to read  her fascinating story.

The story of Susan’s paternal loss.

Susan Swingler tells of her life with her mother Joyce, after her father Leonard Jolley left them in 1950 when she was just  a four-year old. Although so young, she had vivid memories of  her charismatic father and clung to his promise when they parted, to soon be with them again. Over the years of absence, her heart grew fonder, and she refused to believe that he would not honour his promise.

Then Joyce told her she and Leonard were now divorced. Leonard had remarried.

“Did she know his new wife”? Susan asked of her mother?

“No” Joyce evasively replied.

This was part of a deceit that lasted until just before her 21st birthday. It was only when she needed Leonard’s permission to marry that she discovered details of the family secret and cover-up.

After Leonard left, life was a struggle for the independently minded Joyce, who declined to seek help from her devout Exclusive Brethren parents because they had not approved of her having a University education.

In 1955 industrious Joyce was able with a deposit of just 51 pounds, to purchase a 2650 pound 2 bedroom cottage in Exeter. To help pay the mortgage, she took in tenants, and Susan shared her mother’s bedroom. With their own home, Joyce was able retrieve from storage Susan’s toys and other items from when she lived with Leonard in Birmingham.

One afternoon when her mother was out Susan came across a chest, inside which she found out of fashion clothes, and other items, including her mother’s old diary. She thumbed through it, noting an entry for her birth-date on June 3, 1946. And then she came across a letter with the spidery handwriting of her father on the envelope. It was written by Leonard to Joyce at the time of their separation. Somewhat guiltily she read on, and two sentences down she saw her name. She could hardly believe what she then read. For Pop-Star the sentence was perhaps the most poignant moment of the book

“I think it would be best if you told Susan I was dead”.

Devoted “daddy’s girl” Susan, only then accepted the harsh reality, that her father really wanted to end all contact with her. But why? And why was Leonard ready to go to elaborate lengths to hide from his own Exclusive Brethren family the truth of his own infidelity, divorce and remarriage; even migrating to Perth in Western Australia to avoid all contact.

Susan uncovers the family secrets

It is Susan’s incessant quest to understand the events of her birth that keeps the reader so engrossed. Gradually she gains insights into family events and personalities, and eventually  learns more of the triangular relationship between Leonard, his wife Joyce, and his nurse Monica Knight.  When Monica became pregnant, she moved into the Jolley household.  Five weeks after Monica had a baby girl, Joyce gave birth to Susan. It was an impossible situation for family harmony and stability. After four years of indecision, he eventually resolved the situation without explanation to Susan, by leaving them to live with Monica, who changed her name to Elizabeth. Although angry and disillusioned, Susan could not forget her father and remained committed to meeting him.

It was only near the end of his life that she was able to arrange a meeting with him in his Perth home. His now famous wife, the novelist Elizabeth Jolley, carefully supervised the meeting. It ended disappointingly for Susan. There were many questions she planned to ask her frail and hesitant father but when the chance at last was there, her resolution faltered,  and the opportunity passed. Throughout the interview he hardly took his eyes off Elizabeth, and it was only when saying goodbye that he gave her, what to Susan was surprisingly sweet, a smile of farewell. This at least gave her some assurance of a fondness that had always been so distant.

The last chapters of Susan’s book followed another journey to Australia, where she was able to read the biography of Elizabeth Jolley and meet  the author Brian Dibble. She then read the more autobiographical of Elizabeth Jolley’s novels. Finally she was able with permission to view the letters written between Leonard and Elizabeth. They, along with her diaries and other writings, are stored in trust at the Mitchell library in Sydney for 30 years from Elizabeth’s death in 2007.

This is a book that reveals intimate details of relationships that may be too personal to be made public. To the end, Leonard Jolley maintained his reserve, and was unable to welcome the daughter who had loved him so constantly, and craved his attention. In forfeiting his relationship with her, he did not deserve her.

This book has so much of human interest to ponder. The deepest ties are those between parent and child in need of nurturing.

But it is not always appreciated that grandparents may feel deprived  when denied contact with their grand-children following marriage break-downs. They too grieve when their grand-children suffer.