Sweet nostaglia

Autumn, not only my favourite season but one where nostalgia for the good ol’ days kicks up a notch as well as fallen leaves.

Liquidambar… the perfect name for this tree!

Beyond the blessed rearview mirror perspective of festive season bullshit bustle, and with its tendency to confer gentle weather [although less than optimally wrought in 2022], mid-autumn notably also heralds the practice of sentimental gastronomy.

Mushrooms on toast
Simple… mushrooms on toast.
Mash with sausages and onion gravy
The G.O.’s perennial favourite… mash with sausage and onion gravy and yes… we’re still harvesting green beans.

Though the whys and wherefores of my propensity to and for autumn or autumnal nostalgia are not as clear cut as my regard for pancakes with lemon and sugar, as well as Iceland poppies, black swans and ginger cats influenced by memories of my mother’s partialities.

“There is something incredibly nostalgic and significant about the annual cascade of autumn leaves.” ― Joe L. Wheeler

Ahhh can you recall those heady days before the pandemic, of carefree get-togethers with family and friends, holidays and houseguests. Easter, my preferred of all public holidays: not for the chocolate, rather its abeyance of hype, here in the Southern Hemisphere fortuitously happens in autumn’s midst. This year along with customary confectionary eggs, Easter delivered a long-anticipated visit from 16-year-old Grandson Number 1. However, within days and with less than auspicious timing came the advice I was a close contact of not one but two Covid-positive people around the time of his arrival.

The G.O. aka Pop and Grandson Number 1… when family visit there’s always a walk to the river.

On the upside, it gave me but especially Pop and Grandson Number 1 time to relax within the environs of our home and village, spend time together, catch up with each other’s lives and stories, explore old photographs and memories, hand down family history, try a short spin on the back of back of Pop’s motorcycle, watch Pop’s favourite motorcycle TV shows and movies, wrangle Pop’s troublesome drone, practise driving Pop’s ride-on lawnmower, swap Wordle and Quordle hints, and pander to Diesel-Dog’s inexhaustible desire for games of catch involving a spit-drenched toy.

Exploring old photos and memories… The G.O. aka Pop and Grandson Number 1… the first time they met in 2005.

In between, we fueled up on what over the years has become anticipated convivial cuisine… Viking cutlets and fat snags from our local butcher expertly barbecued by Pop accompanied by his habitual discourse on the proper technique, potato bake, baked ham, roasted chicken and vegetables, Friday night spaghetti with chilli-garlic-tomato-prawns. And the delight of introducing Grandson Number 1 to things unfamiliar… Kewpie mayonnaise, Roma -as opposed to standard supermarket- tomatoes, homemade basil pesto, and Pop delivering an expresso coffee for him to enjoy in bed each morning. There’s an unusual dearth of corresponding food photos on my camera roll: evidence of my level of anxiety about one or all of us contracting the dreaded ‘rona.

The G.O. aka Pop and Grandson Number 1… when family visit, there’s always a photo on the bridge.

On the downside, ongoing wet weather rendered inadvisable our traditional drives to explore local backroads which are prone to landslips and deteriorate further with every downpour. The possibility of Covid contagion meant venturing further and visiting other family locally was limited by our sense of responsibility… disappointing for Grandson Number 1 and his 88-year-old great-grandmother who was only able to see him masked up from a cautious distance.

Fortunately, I didn’t get Covid-19, nor did the G.O. or Grandson Number 1… and after negative RATs to be sure, we were able to send him home Covid-free at the end of the week. We don’t subscribe to the popular notion “everyone will get Covid”. So far so good we haven’t succumbed… but like many others similarly, the cost of wellbeing is years of constrained lifestyle choices. With worrying infection numbers prevailing it seems crazy to change our stance now. A memorable week for mixed reasons… maybe it will graduate from a quaint make-the-best-of-it-story when nostalgia kicks in a decade or so.

“And so their memories took on potential, which is of course how our greatest nostalgias are born.”
― Mohsin Hamid, Exit West

Despite my aversion to Hallmark occasions, the month of May is usually accompanied by familial nostalgia, beginning as it does with Mother’s Day and finishing with my Mum’s birthday and what would be her and Dad’s wedding anniversary.

At the heart of my kitchen… Mother.

Our Mother’s Day weekend weather was on the wintry side of autumnal and stirred a timely hankering for comfort foods and soups of my childhood which we conjured using simple ingredients ready to hand from garden, pantry, fridge and freezer. So commonplace is our nostalgia fare I often tend not to photograph it… and it’s not always possible impart visual appeal to rice pudding or savoury mince.

Family food memories… old-fashioned slow cooked split pea and ham soup.
Homemade custard and a pair of pear cakes for Mother’s Day because neither my Mother-in-Law or her son like to share.
Hogging the custard.
Autumnal afternoon light, pear cake and custard… sweet nostalgia.

Time spent preparing food is almost always in the company of my kitchen muses and often contemplative of the past but more so in the days following the recent real estate listing of the farm that once belonged to my grandparents and where I spent much of my early years.

Oakleigh Newlings_2011 Centenary
Oakleigh Newling’s… Dad, my uncles and aunt and me at the property’s centenary celebrations in 2011.

Almost 5 decades have passed since any of my family resided at the property which in our time was known as Oakleigh, so it’s only natural when viewing the real estate photographs to notice that although some remain reminiscent of our time, many features have changed including the name to Oakleigh Park, repurposed and added rooms, and notably bold wall treatments.

“It shocks me how I wish for… what is lost and cannot come back.”
― Sue Monk Kidd, Traveling With Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story

Oakleigh paintings by Ian Lean_2021
Paintings of Oakleigh’s house and dairy by the G.O.’s cousin Ian Lean in 2021.

While memories of my grandparents’ farmhouse inspire many choices I make for our home, in an interesting synchronicity Oakleigh Park’s kitchen walls present similar buttery hues to those in my kitchen here at Taylors Arm, a feature I don’t recollect from my last visit for the farm’s centenary celebration in 2011. However, in a curious feat of unwitting nostalgia, the G.O.’s paint choice of traditional early 20th century duck egg blues and greens for the rest of our interior walls -selected years before I ever set foot in Taylors Arm- evoke the walls of my Oakleigh childhood remembrances.

Kitchen_Oakleigh Park__Images from McGrath Upper Hunter_Domain_httpswww.domain.com.au203-upper-dartbrook-road-scone-nsw-2337-2017767749
Oakleigh Park kitchen 2022. In my grandparents’ time this room was the laundry. Image credit: McGrath Upper Hunter_Domain_httpswww.domain.com.au203-upper-dartbrook-road-scone-nsw-2337-2017767749
Kitchen_Taylors Arm
Taylors Arm kitchen 2022.

Nostalgia accompanies the bittersweet reconciliation where knowledge I’m unable to return to the farm meets understanding I also no longer wish to, despite clinging to cherished reminiscences which somehow sweeten my appreciation for the home the G.O. and I have created together… and cognisance it also once was someone else’s grandparents’ house… such is the way of it.

Oakleigh Memories
Memories of Oakleigh circa late 1960’s – early 1970’s.

“You can’t return to a place that no longer exists, luv.”
― Samantha Sotto, Before Ever After

Finally, despite ongoing crappy meteorological conditions… let’s not talk about the weather!… We’ve had a bloody good go at appreciating this autumnal season, although there is indeed balm in the stack of firewood out the back ready for when winter inevitably makes its-chilly-self felt.

Taylors Arm village does autumn.
Let's not talk about the weather
Playing in puddles… muddy nostalgia!
Coffs Harbour
There will be no nostalgia for the summer of 2022 that never was. Have to be content with nostalgia for summers of the past… which the young G.O. spent at Coffs Harbour including North Wall Beach with its backdrop of Mutton Bird Island, the jetty and marina.

“how sad and bad and mad it was – but then, how it was sweet”
― Robert Browning

Tell me, what is your favourite season and does it elicit nostalgia?

17 thoughts on “Sweet nostaglia

  1. One of my Pa’s most favourite poems begins “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…” I can almost smell the fallen leaves in your photos, see the slightly foggy early mornings of northern NSW and feel braced by the very slight nip of early morning air. I really miss – quite hard – that part of the country and its seasons. Far more, in fact, than I miss the UK, despite how many more years I’d spent there. Here, autumn is more of a gradually slipping into shorter days and cooler nights and more moderate weather. Soon, I shall be planting peas and beans and beets, to take advantage of whatever chill we get. It’ll still be too warm for cabbages, cauliflowers, broccoli and kale, though…

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    1. Those lines are really evocative of the best of autumn… plenty of mists out here in the hills, not much fruitfulness this year thanks to too much rain! But otherwise it’s been pleasant, and glimpses of firey coloured leaves across the landscape definitely sets the mood. I wish you success with your cool season garden… I’ve just had another go at planting some broad bean seeds.


  2. My mother had a story about the autumnal leaves – that they had been the dresses of fairies but now as winter was to arrive, the fairies would hibernate, make new leaf dresses for the coming season beyond winter – and I enjoy thinking when I see all the fallen leaves, that the fairies are away toiling over new green dresses whilst keeping warm and cosy in their tree trunk houses…

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  3. I loved this post Dale, so full of nostalgia, but also contentment for the present (weather aside, of course!). I love Autumn to, as things close down and ready us to hunker down for Winter….like Catherine’s delightful story about fairies creating their new dresses. I saw 6 hot air balloons fly over this morning. It was the perfect Autumn morning for them as it was very still. I stood in the garden and watched them for a full five minutes.

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    1. Thank you. Perfect conditions for hot air ballooning both the doing and watching of! The progress of autumn days do suggest a winding down towards a winter hiatus… I’m hopeful anyway. This year has felt busy and quick to pass. And if that is indeed the case, we can wish towards better times.


  4. Very enjoyable post Dale. The Oakleigh house looks loved, even though it has been changed a bit. The paintings of the old Oakleigh house are nice too! It’s so true, you can’t really go back, but the good memories are so welcome. As soon as these blasted renovations finish I will have to catch up on my autumnal baking–not to mention my blogging. Pear cake is high on the list, but first I have to get some decent pears. Our produce and other grocery items are still a bit random, but since it is pear season I’m hoping things will improve! I love your updated version of the old style kitchen. It really looks appealing and practical. We are still Covid free too, and steadily making choices that are in the conservative arena. Take care and enjoy your lovely life. x

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    1. Thank you. The most recent owner, and who hosted the centenary occasion was a lovely person, and under her custodianship the property functioned as an animal sanctuary. Anne wrote a book ‘Portia the Cricket Loving Pig, Goes to London’ about her big pig, who liked to listen to cricket on the radio. Sadly Portia passed away in early 2020, and Anne a few months ago. As you can tell, I enjoy the memories and feel I’m fortunate to have them. It’s seems as if many of us have had a busyish autumn. I can only imagine the associated management and extra work renovations entail. The cake pears were remnants of an odd bunch bag from Woolies, stored well and were delicious both fresh and cooked. Next time though I’ll poach them slightly in spiced rum before I top the cake with them. Kind of you to say about our kitchen… it’s hotchpotch but it works and a new kitchen would clash horribly with the rest of the house. I’m pleased we’re in good covid-free company.

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  5. I feel nostalgia for every house I’ve ever lived in, but…the memories that shine the brightest are the ones of Wagga Wagga. We were only there for less than a year, and I was only four, but Wagga is the place that made me fall in love with Australia. The house we lived in was owned by an Aussie family and we shared the house with them. The dunny was outside and there was a dirt road outside the house with the Murrumbidgee on the other side. The local kids taught me to speak English and they were the kindest, nicest kids you could imagine. Not like the city kids who bullied me when we left.
    I went back to Wagga once, as an adult, but couldn’t find the house. Maybe it doesn’t exist any more, but I remember that time and place with love.

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    1. Outside dunnies are very nostalgic… the one at the farm set me up, I think, to know I can cope when the amenities are less than salubrious! Neighbours are great material for nostaglia. Like your experience, our neighbours at the farm were very kind to me and my family. Happy memories!

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  6. What a lovely walk down memory lane, thank you. The worst thing about Covid is that you can get it again. We, like you, are being very careful although I am getting tired of the isolation and the sacrifices that demands. How wonderful that your grandson was able to visit. Our dogs share the love of puddles.

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    1. We’ve had some pleasant attempts to remerge from our cautious life, and then news reports about the local cases, incresed numbers or flu season risks send us scurrying back to our safe homebase. Sigh. Like us, I imagine your dogs feel it too, I know Diesel is delighted with not just puddles but when he gets to go out somewhere different in the car.

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      1. We’ve started doing agility training (just for fun) with the dogs. We never had time for it while we were both working. It’s outside and great fun, our two younger ones enjoy it and it’s mental stimulation for us all. And yes, they do love new people and activities…the pandemic is boring for us all.

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