Favourites – Heroic Hobartians

When I lived in Hobart in 1958/59 there was only a pontoon bridge across the Derwent River. I didn’t like it because it swayed if the weather was rough or the tides were high and waves would splash over the sides. However, it was the main link between the airport on the east side (where 30% of Hobartians live) and the city of Hobart on the west.  In 1964 the new Tasman Bridge was opened and though I had been to Hobart on several occasions (by road from Launceston) I had never driven over it.

On the 5th January 1975, the whole country was shocked to hear that the bulk ore carrier, the Lake Illawarra, crashed into several pylons on the Tasman Bridge and brought a large section down. Fortunately, because it was a Sunday night there were few cars on the bridge. However, seven crew members died and five people in cars drove over the edge of the bridge and were killed.

The toll could have been much worse. Local people in small craft, in true Dunkirk style, braved the falling masonry, live wires and a torrent of water from a broken main above them and heroically saved many on the ore carrier before it sank. How marvellous is the remarkable, unflinching human spirit that will brave all to save another? That spirit being gifted to us by God the Father Himself when He created us.

It so reminds me of God’s salvation plan for us all. Jesus would come as a human to bear the rejection, the thorns, the beatings and the cross to save us because God is not willing that any should perish.

The Tasman Bridge

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Favourites – My beautiful Boy

This is a quote from Doug’s story in my  trilogy (Ice Creams) page 209 “We knocked on the back door and walked straight in “Auntie Lil, this is Doug.” My father informed her without much ado. She immediately reached out and pulled me towards her and gave me the biggest hug, “So this is Dougie?” There was genuine affection in her voice: my heart melted. I could feel the love radiating from her, it was almost tangible. Somehow I knew that here was someone who would love me for myself and whom I could trust.”

The only skirmish Doug had at Auntie Lil’s was when he was being disobedient. His young married cousin Mabel gave him three whacks across the bottom and sent him to bed without any tea. Later on, she went in to him and said, “Come and get some tea my boy and don’t you ever disobey me again.” He never did and as I write this I recall that Mabel became the same beautiful lady her mother was.

Fast forward many years and we received a call from Mabel’s daughter Julie that her mother was in high-care. When we walked into the nursing home we saw Mabel immediately. She looked up and smiled not remembering who I was and then she saw Doug. “Doug, Doug,” she exclaimed as he walked towards her. “I have been thinking about you.” reaching out towards him she clasped his hands. “My beautiful, beautiful boy she kept exclaiming, “How glad I am to see you, I loved you so much, my beautiful boy. Oh! My beautiful boy, do you remember my Mother she loved you so much too?”

As Doug and I sat with her, unbid tears streamed down our faces as she would repeat over again, “Oh Doug, my beautiful, beautiful boy.”  Doug, as most of you know is no longer a boy but Mabel I’m sure was seeing the boy she knew.  Twice she said to me, “I’m sorry dear I don’t know who you are?” But, she certainly knew who Doug was.

After about an hour she asked him to pray with her and he quietly prayed for about fifteen minutes holding her hands as she drifted off to sleep. It was almost a sacred experience. I don’t think I will ever forget it.  

Romans 12:9 reads “Don’t just pretend that you love others: really love them.” It’s a challenge to us all, God loves us so much that he was prepared to sacrifice His ‘beautiful boy’ for us. Now that really is love. It’s an amazing example of how we should love others.

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Favourites – ‘Wrong Assumptions’

I must confess I thought it was a bit of a giggle when someone dear to me was diagnosed with Policeman’s Heel. I couldn’t help asking ‘‘Allo! Allo! Wot do we have ‘ere then, too much pounding the beat?” Now, after months of struggling, some of it on crutches, a new moulded foot support and hundreds of dollars later I realize how painful and frustrating such a condition is.  Not so funny now!  

After the initial diagnosis, it was discovered the condition was actually Plantar Fasciitis. Inflammation of the tissue which supports the arch of the foot and acts as a shock absorber.  So, as my mother used to say, “a little knowledge is dangerous,” my quick imitation of a London ‘Bobby’ was not particularly appropriate.

My first impression of a policeman was when I read my sisters Noddy books. As an eight-year-old, I thought he seemed quite clever but, I’ve since discovered, he always pretended he knew the problem but never quite figured it out.

Doug’s first impression of a policeman was quite misleading. When he was just seven years old, he was alarmed when the local Constable approached him. “Hello young man,” he remarked casually as he sat down on the steps of the verandah. “What’s your name son? Doug was now terrified, he was sure the policeman was coming to put him in gaol. In hindsight, it’s probably more likely that the Constable was checking on his welfare. Yet again evidence of the fact that a little knowledge can be very misleading.

How often do we do that? How often do we make quick assumptions and judgements about people, places or things without being properly informed? 

Talking to the Corinthians about knowledge, Paul inferred that he did not know it all but one day he would know everything. (1 Corinthians 13:12) “For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face, Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

On this earth, no matter how extensive our knowledge is, we will never know everything about a given subject, person or place. So, let us remember, a little knowledge is dangerous and beware of judging or jumping to conclusions.

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Favourites – ‘Did you miss the boat?’

Back in 1912, Reverend J.Stuart Holden was to sail to America to speak at the Christian Conservation Congress held at Carnegie Hall. This would have opened a great opportunity for ministry to him and he was quite enthusiastic. However, his wife became suddenly ill and he had no choice but to cancel and return his first-class ticket the day before his ship sailed.  Rev Holden was booked on the Titanic!

Reverend Holden kept the envelope which held his Titanic ticket and thankful for his salvation wrote across it a line from Psalm 103 verse 3 “Who redeemeth thy life from destruction.” It is now an exhibit in Liverpool’s Merseyside Museum. Later in life, Rev Holden would travel extensively to preach in America.

Two other Guest speakers invited to the same convention had circumstances arise which caused them to cancel their passage on the Titanic also. Archbishop Thomas J Madden of Liverpool and Rev J S Wardell Stafford.

St Paul had planned to visit Spain. However, because his life was in danger and he appealed to Caesar. On his way to Rome, he was shipwrecked off the island of Malta.  (Where I might add they  celebrate his shipwreck in a gazetted public holiday every 10th of February to this day.) As we know Paul didn’t get to visit Spain he ended up permanently in Rome, where under house arrest he wrote the life-changing Epistles which have been read by millions down through the years. All part of God’s plan of course.

We have all heard stories from folk who have been detoured, held up or even seen their plans come to nothing, only to find later that a better option was ahead of them. In Proverbs 16.9 we read “The mind of a man plans his way but the Lord directs his steps.” And, Proverbs 3:6 “In all your ways acknowledge Him and  He shall direct your paths.”

So, even though we may never know why we have been redirected or why circumstances stop us from going a certain route. We can be sure that sometimes it’s better to, ‘miss the boat’.

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Favourites – ‘Who’s got your back?’

It’s interesting that some things we easily forget over the years and yet others we remember.  I’m sure we can all think of some endearing expression that either we in our childhood or one of our children has said that still travels the journey with us.

When Anita was little she would say ‘ahind’ instead of behind. Whenever we were out somewhere I would look back to check my little clutch of chickens were all with me and invariably Anita would pipe up “I’m ahind you Mum” So I have to smile whenever Doug remarks while traveling up the escalators at the shopping centre.“I’m ahind you Mum.” “Does that mean you’ve got my back?” I query.

Some years ago, Anita and her husband David with their three boys relocated to Sydney after 25 years in Melbourne. One night just before leaving, David woke in fright. He had been dreaming that he and Anita were racing down-hill in the back seat of a car when he realized there was no one at the steering wheel. He was scrambling to try and get over to the front seat when he awoke. For a moment he wondered if moving to Sydney was the right decision. Just then a quiet voice said to him, “It’s alright, I am steering this car. I’m in control, I’ve got you covered.” In other words “I’ve got your back.”

Originally a military term, I’ve got you covered, or I’ve got your back is such a reassuring statement. I am so glad that we can step out knowing that God’s got our back. The Bible says the Lord will go before you and be your rear guard. (Isaiah 52.12) This means if we love Him and follow Him, He has got our front and our back. (See also Psalm 91)

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Favourites – ‘Are you a finisher?’

Twenty plus years ago I was threatened over the phone by an irate customer whose credit had been stopped. “I have a gun here and I’m driving down to shoot you,” he exclaimed in absolute frustration. He was very, very, angry. The situation could have been resolved had he been a ‘finisher’. He had, over time many unpaid or part paid invoices amounting to thousands of dollars. These stretched back over several years because he had the habit of only paying the portion of an invoice which had been allocated to a particular job.  He was using us to cost his projects. It worked for him but not for us.

He was a good customer and I was a fairly new Credit Controller for the company. After some months and many warnings, he still had not picked up the differences and there was no alternative but to stop his credit. His was quite a large business and he most probably had a workshop full of stock for which he had not paid. Now of course; he had tradesmen standing around not able to get on with the job.

The situation could have been resolved within minutes had he walked into his local branch with a cheque. But no! He didn’t want to pay until he had time to allocate the unpaid product. I am a finisher! No praise to me; it’s just the way I’m wired. I hate to leave jobs or situations unresolved. In my earlier years, I would unpick and rework a garment half a dozen times to get it right. In those days I would never throw it in the corner and give up, especially in the 1970s when crocheting was all the rage. (I might now!)

There are several statements in the Bible about God being a ‘Finisher’. One of these exhorts us to keep our eyes on Jesus the author and Finisher of our faith. (Heb 12:2 KJV). There are of course some situations and circumstances in life which are out of our control, on such occasions we have no choice but to trust. So, when they arise it’s a good idea to just hand them over to God and focus on Jesus.

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Favourites – ‘It Makes You Think.’

Some years back Doug found an old Parks Victoria poster in Ballarat which had been discarded. It referred to a gold mining disaster at the New Australasian Mine in Creswick, 19 km from Ballarat.

It read, “Without warning on the 12th December 1882 water began flooding the number 2 drive trapping 29 miners deep below. 22 Miners died in the tragedy leaving behind 17 Widows and 67 children. As the water rose higher, the miners scratched messages to their families on billycans and sang the hymn ‘In the sweet bye and bye’.”

30 years later (1912) as the Titanic sank the band played and the passengers sang the hymn ‘Nearer my God to thee’.

In 1942 the Sinking of the Japanese Auxilary ship Montevideo Maru was considered to be the worst maritime disaster in Australian history. The ship was carrying a total of 1053 prisoners of the Japanese forces: 667 Allied soldiers 178 NCO’s from the 2/22 Battalion and 208 civilians. The ship, which was sunk by an allied submarine, was not marked as carrying prisoners of war. It sank in 11 minutes.

Among the passengers, there were 25 members of the 2/22 Battalion Regimental Band. Twenty-three of these men were originally Salvation Army Bandsmen. Yamaji, a Japanese crew member who survived reported, “there were more prisoners of war in the water than crew members….and they were singing.”

In all three instances as their life was cut short by tragedy, these men sang confidently together about their faith and meeting again. Fred Kollmorgan the only band member who was not on the Montevideo Maru said of the men who were lost that fateful night, “I know I will meet up with some of my mates one day because they believed in heaven and I believe in heaven.”

These men had a short time to address their mortality. We may not have that opportunity so shouldn’t that motivate us to make our peace with God now, while we still have time? It makes you think!

The 2/22 Battalion Regimental Band

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Favourites – I know you Can

Doug told me this story as we were puffing up the rise one day on our morning walk. It was just one of those days.  I was imitating the children’s story we heard as kids, repeating, “I think I can, I think I can,” as we struggled along. We were walking much later than usual and  always find the rise harder later in the day.

“We’ll soon be at the, ’I knew I could, I knew I could’ stage.” He encouraged. “I remember standing at the side entrance of Auntie Mary’s house in Holyrood Street in Maryborough watching the goods trains.  It would have been in about 1945-46. In those days everything went by train, there were no large road transports. The laden carriages were generally pulled by two engines and they would struggle up the hill till they finally made it to the top.”

“Did they ever not make it?” I asked. “From time to time.” He replied. “There were occasions when those two engines would get to the crest of the hill opposite the Loco shed and then roll back down again. They blew the whistle as they rolled back to let the men in charge of the Loco shed know they were in trouble. The weight of the carriages easily dragged them to Simpson Siding. Eventually, I would see a third engine from the loco shed backing up the line towards the other two. Once connected, although the three engines would still strain up the hill they would finally make it over the top and down the other side.”

As Doug was speaking I thought about how much like life that is. Sometimes we strain so hard to do things in our own strength and find that we just can’t make it. When all we need to do is send a message to God to help us. He has a spare engine (energy source) locked away in His Loco shed and He is just waiting for us to ask for it.

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My Favourites – Memories

Recently, I remembered that my fine china which should be washed at least once a year to stop it from crazing was missed in 2020. I’ll blame it on Covid, either way, it had completely slipped my mind. Looking at the tea set Doug bought me for my twenty-first birthday I remarked as I handled it, “You had good taste, good choice!”. “It wasn’t me,” he replied, “It was your Mum.” “Mum?” I responded. “I thought you and she went together to choose it?” Not so apparently. After 50 plus years I’ve discovered that Doug gave Mum the cash and she went shopping on her own.

Because of this revelation my little Colclough tea set, which is no longer manufactured means even more to me than before. It’s special because Doug gave it to me and doubly since my Mum, (who passed away in 2006) chose it. As I sit here writing, I realize that it’s not only collectables which become more valued with years, so do people.

The Memories of my mum and dad, my sister and our little grandson Peter have not diminished but rather have become more precious as the years go by. I remember their likes and dislikes, their funny ways their endearing qualities. I recall their laugh, their expressions, their joys and their pain. 

God values us in the same way. He knows our likes and dislikes our good points and bad and yet with all our fears and foibles He loves us unreservedly. In fact not only so, but He values us so much He was willing to sacrifice His only Son for our Redemption.   (John 3:16) 

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My Favourites – ‘Oops!’

We were packing away the shopping one day and Doug decided to deal with the Celery.  I came up beside him and started to wash it. “You cut the main stems awfully short,” I remarked, examining the wastage. “We’ll use it for soup.” He replied as he commenced chopping the top pieces. I was still a little miffed as I examined the lengths. It was then Doug offered with a cheeky grin. “If you don’t like it you can do it yourself you know.” “Oops!” I remarked laughing, “Oh! No, it’s fine, it will make amazing soup.” I exaggerated. The last thing I wanted was to be chopping veggies for soup.  

Don’t you love that word? Oops! Well, it doesn’t matter whether you do or not because I do. One of my mother’s frequently repeated quotes was, ‘love covers a multitude of sins’. When you would apologise for some misdemeanour she would say with a smile, “Its ok, love covers a multitude of sins.” However, I reckon second to love Oops covers a vast number of sins two. Now before you, theologians get upset about my comparison with St Peters words, this is not an exegesis of 1 Peter 4:8, this is just a bit of light-hearted blogging. I’m not talking about robbery or murder here.

Oops comes from the saying ‘Oopsy-daisy’. It was a term used when a child stumbled or when encouraging them to get up again. The earliest recorded variant of which is Up-a-daisy (by Jonathan Swift back in 1711). According to the Oxford dictionary oops is used to show recognition of a minor error or accident. So many people hate to admit they are wrong. Oops allows them to admit their fault without embarrassment or guilt.

I have used ‘Oops!’ in so many circumstances. For instance, I have used it, when I have accidentally sent an unfinished text mid-sentence. When I have called someone by the wrong name, when I have left the door ajar with the heating is on or when deleting a file I should have saved, the list is endless.

I was talking to my daughter Anita on the phone on one occasion and she referred to putting some money aside just in case she had an ‘Oops moment’.  Now I have never heard oops used in that vein before. Like it or hate it I think ‘oops’ is here to stay.

By the way, there is only one way to cover a multitude of sins really, that’s through going to God and asking for the forgiveness that Jesus procured for you on Calvary.

‘Oops!’

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